Dolphins, turtles have oil on them


GULFPORT – Almost a year after the BP oil spill, dolphins are washing ashore with oil on them – mostly in Louisiana, NOAA Fisheries said in a briefing Thursday.

Since early November, six bottlenose dolphins were confirmed with Deepwater Horizon oil on them, one with oil that did not match the spill, and two that have not been tested yet.

The most-recent oiled dolphin washed ashore in Louisiana two weeks ago.

“But (just) because they have oil on them … it may not be the cause of death,” said Blair Mase, who coordinates dolphin strandings in the Southeast for NOAA Fisheries. She said a team is determining the contribution oil had in the deaths.

Since the spill began in April 2010, 406 dolphins have washed ashore, 15 with visible oil. Of those, eight were confirmed to be oiled with Deepwater Horizon oil.

“We’re having marine mammals with oil on them wash up currently,” she said. “We’re still in oil response in Louisiana.”

Of the 15 visibly oiled, one was found in Mississippi.

Mase said samples are going to labs to determine the source of the oil.

In the case of premature dolphins washing ashore this year in Mississippi and Alabama, scientists in the briefing said there are no tissue testing results. There have been 65 stranded this year in the northern Gulf. However, labs have been selected for tissue samples.

None of the 97 sea turtles found dead in the Gulf this year, most in Mississippi, had visible on oil them, the NOAA scientists said. Most of the turtles are young endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.

Barbara Schroeder, NOAA Fisheries national sea turtle coordinator, said necropsies have been performed on 25 of the Kemp’s Ridleys. Seven died of trauma, likely from boat propellers. Others, though actively feeding and generally healthy, had sediment in them, an indication of drowning.

Schroeder said scientists are looking at drowning from fishing trawls or at the possibility of some type of acute toxin poisoning.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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