The BP Oil Spill Killed Dolphins. A Lot Of Them.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
It's been five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill coated the Gulf Coast in oil, but the catastrophe continues to claim victims. A new study has directly linked the more than 205-million-gallon spill with the mass deaths of dolphins in the region.

According to the findings of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment, dolphins from the Gulf Coast were far more likely to die from lung and adrenal lesions than dolphins from other regions, the The New York Times reported. The ailments found in the Gulf dolphins are consistent with the kinds of problems found in animals exposed to oil. 

“The evidence to date indicates that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused the adrenal and lung lesions that contributed to the deaths of this unusual mortality event,” Stephanie Venn-Watson, the lead author of the report, told the Times.

British Petroleum, the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig — and that has one of the worst safety records of any oil company that works in the U.S. — has already disputed the data. But, if you've ever seen a photo of a pelican or sea lion coated in slick petroleum, you know oil spills are bad for wildlife in the short and long term. More than 8,000 birds, marine mammals, and other creatures were found injured or dead in the six months after the spill, and it could be years before we know what lasting effects the spill will have.

These new findings add another layer of urgency to the cleanup of the two-day-old oil spill off the coast of California, where 105,000 gallons of crude pumped into the Pacific Ocean, spreading over nine miles of coastline. The polluted section of California coast has popular beaches and campgrounds, and is home to a variety of wildlife, from birds to shellfish, all of which are now in danger. 

Environmental officials are scrambling to contain the new spill, which happened Tuesday when a pipeline owned by Plains All American ruptured. Plains has a long history of safety issues — accidents have spilled more than 688,000 gallons of hazardous liquids and caused more than $23 million in property damage since 2006, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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