The new normal for the Gulf includes severely ill bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay [photo: NOAA]. According to NOAA and its partners, a comprehensive physical of 32 Barataria dolphins show that many of them are underweight, anemic and some symptoms of liver and lung disease. Nearly half also have abnormally low levels of hormones that help regulate stress response, metabolism and immune function. More than 675 dolphins have stranded in the northern Gulf since 2010. The usual number is 74 dolphins per year. The magnitude of the strandings is unprecedented and cannot be attributed to the common causes of high dolphin mortality, morbillivirus and marine biotoxins. Barataria Bay was heavily impacted by spilled crude oil for a long time compared to other areas of the Gulf such as Sarasota Bay, Florida where scientist also assessed dolphin health. The same severe health problems are not showing up there. Dolphins exposed to high levels of toxic crude oil inhale its fumes, ingest it while feeding, eat whole contaminated fish, and absorb toxins through their skin. The probable cause is fairly hard to deny, but a final report for Barataria Bay is expected in six months. British Petroleum and the US Coast Guard declared the Bay clean last fall, but in March photos were published in the Times-Picayune showing oil sheens in the the wetlands.
The Macondo blowout also killed off nearby coral colonies. A study funded by Bureau of Ocean Management and NOAA found coral colonies less than a mile southwest of the Macondo well are dead or dying, showing "widespread signs of stress". A chemical analysis of the brown flocculent material (decomposing crude oil) covering the corals shows "strong evidence that this material comes from the Macando well." This not merely 'anecdotal evidence' that can be dismissed as hysteria. But coastal residents have not stopped reporting what they find on their beaches regardless of what an international oil giant thinks of their credibility. Oiled sea turtles are washing ashore in Mississippi. Resident Charles Taylor got fed up with his local corporate media outlet when his photos of dead sea turtles were ignored. He told his local news station, "I am sending these pictures again" of four dead turtles in Waveland. He continued in his letter, "I have no way of proving that these turtles were killed by BP, but it seems funny that any news we see and try to report that might cast a bad light on BP simply does not get reported." It is more than just funny, Charley, it is part of BP's media management.
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