Oil Companies Blamed for More Than 3,000 Dead Dolphins in Peru


Dead dolphins are washing ashore by the hundreds on a stretch of coastline less than 100 miles long in Peru. The corpses are stacking up so quickly that removal and disposal efforts are overwhelming local authorities. Commercial fishermen estimate that more than 3,000 dead dolphins have washed up on the beaches here over the last three months, nearly 500 in recent days.

It is one of the largest dolphin die-offs ever recorded worldwide.

The suspected perpetrators? Oil companies. No (gasp)! Who’d have ever thought? Leading scientists believe oil companies conducting offshore “acoustic testing” are killing the dolphins en masse, and doing so in a particularly gruesome way. It is common for marine mammals exposed to this type of acoustic testing to experience prolonged periods of internal bleeding and loss of equilibrium, before dying. Similar testing – to determine the location of oil reservoirs beneath the seafloor – was suspended in the Gulf of Mexico through dolphin calving season, which ends in May. Meanwhile, the situation in Peru grows more grave by the day.

Consider this from an April 4 MSNBC report by Miguel Llanos:

Conservationists counted 615 dead dolphins along a 90-mile stretch of beaches in Peru, a wildlife group said Wednesday, and the leading suspect is acoustic testing offshore by oil companies.

“If you can count 615 dead dolphins, you can be sure there are a great many more out at sea and the total will reach into the thousands,” Hardy Jones, head of the conservation group BlueVoice.org, said in a statement after he and an expert with ORCA Peru walked the beaches.

Indeed, the head of a local fishermen’s association told (news outlet) Peru21.pe that he estimated more than 3,000 dolphins had died so far this year, based on what he saw in the water and on beaches.

BlueVoice.org stated that “initial tests…show evidence of acoustical impact from sonic blasts used in exploration for oil.”

The ORCA Peru expert, veterinarian Carlos Yaipen Llanos, said that while “we have no definitive evidence,” he suspects acoustic testing created a “marine bubble” – in essence a sonic blast that led to internal bleeding, loss of equilibrium and disorientation.

Based on past, highly credible research, the “marine bubble” theory holds water. Consider this from an April 2 TreeHugger report by Stephen Messenger:

In 2003, scientists from the Zoological Society of London discovered that underwater sonar can lead to the formation of microscopic bubbles of nitrogen in the bloodstream and vital organs of aquatic mammals, afflicting the animals with a lethal condition commonly known as the Bends. Additionally, low-range acoustic sensors are suspected to cause disorientation and internal bleeding to exposed wildlife.

Here we see what a huge impact the oil industry has on marine ecosystems – before the first well is even drilled. Not only are the dolphins dying, they’re dying in an extremely painful way. More from the MSNBC report:

“It is a horrifying thought that these dolphins would die in agony over a prolonged period if they were impacted by sonic blast,” said Jones.

Numerous dolphins first started washing ashore in January, with the largest amount coming in early February. Thousands of dead anchovies were also seen.

We’ll stay on top of this breaking story and bring you updates as they emerge.

One thing is clear: From the Gulf Coast to the shores of Peru, when you see a beach littered with dead dolphins, you can bet the oil industry is in town.

Read the MSNBC report by Miguel Llanos here: http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/04/11016438-615-dead-dolphins-found-on-peru-beaches-acoustic-tests-for-oil-to-blame

Read Stephen Messenger’s report for TreeHugger here: http://www.treehugger.com/ocean-conservation/3000-dolphins-found-dead-coast-peru.html

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

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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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