Reports are trickling in about an increasing number of dolphins and sea turtles washing up dead on the Gulf of Mexico coast. We are starting to see oil-covered seabirds, bringing back memories of the terrible photos from the Exxon Valdez spill. There were even rumors this week, as yet unconfirmed, of several dead sperm whales.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. No one seems to know for sure how much oil has been spilled, but the estimates keep increasing. Some scientists are now saying that the equivalent of two Valdez spills per week is gushing into the Gulf right now. So far, most of the oil has remained below the surface, offshore, and out of sight – and so have the impacts to marine life.

Part of the problem with assessing what the spill is doing to Gulf species has been a lack of transparency by those doing the assessing. BP has hired contractors to test dead animals, but what we’ve seen from them so far has been a bit dubious. When contractors tell the media that the number of dead dolphins is no cause for alarm, or that there is no link to the spill, it doesn’t exactly instill confidence.

NOAA is the federal agency we would expect to lead this, and it is good to see that they are taking a larger role now. Unfortunately, before even preliminary analysis has been shared about whether use of toxic chemical dispersants is compounding the threat to marine life, the Environmental Protection Agency has just approved their use at depth. No one knows the impact this will have on the Gulf ecosystem, but it will keep more of those impacts out of sight – and at least for now, that is enough for BP and the Obama Administration.

But not for us.