The Gulf of Mexico’s wildlife and wetlands are still recovering from the massive oil spill that occurred three years ago when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. The incident, the worst of its kind in U. S. history, killed eleven workers and spilled 200 million gallons of oil. The spill affected hundreds of miles of the Gulf’s coastline and killed thousands of animals.
The National Wildlife Federation recently released a report, “Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three years into the Gulf Oil Disaster.” The report looked at how species of wildlife across the northern Gulf are faring. Doug Inkley, senior scientist and lead author of the report said: “dolphins are still dying in high numbers in the areas affected by oil. These ongoing deaths-particularly in an apex predator like the dolphin-are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem.”
The report found that dolphin deaths have remained above average every month since the spill. Infant dolphins were found dead at six times average rates in January and February of 2013. More than 1,700 sea turtles were found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012, on average about 240 sea turtles are stranded annually. A coral colony seven miles from the wellhead was badly damaged by oil. A recent study found that the mixture of oil and dispersant affected the ability of some coral species to build new parts of a reef. Scientist also found that the oil disaster affected the cellular function of the killifish, a common bait fish at the base of the food web. A recent study also found that oil exposure can also harm the development of larger fish such as mahi mahi.
Other oil spill disasters have taken years to reveal their full effects and ofter recovery remains incomplete after decades. The Exxon Valdez spill occurred almost a quarter century ago and clams, mussels, sea otters and killer whales are still considered “recovering.”