Dead baby dolphins are washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, dead baby dolphins.
As we approach the one year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico, there is renewed interest in the questions which many of us began asking last April: How serious is this spill? How long will the impacts last, and how far will they reach? Can we trust BP or the government when they say everything is fine?
The truth is starting to come out, and it is not pretty. Four more dead baby dolphins washed up on Horn Island, Mississippi this week. When Greenpeace visited Horn Island last September, we found beaches covered in oily tar balls—and dolphins swimming offshore.
Now twenty-eight dead dolphins have been found already this year, eighteen of them newborns. NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) confirmed that the number of strandings is unusually high, and is working with the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies to investigate whether the oil spill is responsible.
If what we saw last year is any indication, it may be a very long time before we hear anything definitive from the government on this. But for most of us, this looks… fishy.
And it’s not just the dolphins.
In a presentation to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Samantha Joye, a scientist at the University of Georgia, reported that the impact of BP’s oil disaster on the deep sea marine life of the Gulf was “devastating.” Using the Alvin submersible to explore the area near the origin of the spill, scientists found a thick layer of oil still carpeting the bottom.
"Filter-feeding organisms, invertebrate worms, corals, sea fans—all of those were substantially impacted—and by impacted, I mean essentially killed,” said Dr. Joye in an interview with the BBC.
It is going to take years before we can understand the full impact of the BP Horizon disaster on the ecosystem and coastal communities of the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps the most important question now is whether President Obama and Secretary Salazar will recognize that fact and call a halt to new offshore drilling, or whether they will allow companies like BP and Shell to move forward with their plans to drill in the remote, pristine waters of the Arctic.
John Hocevar is the director of Greenpeace USA's oceans campaign. He is based in Washington, D.C.