From montgomeryadvertiser.com – NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Continuing deaths of dolphins and sea turtles are a sign that the Gulf of Mexico is still feeling effects from the 2010 spill that spewed 200 million gallons of oil from a well a mile below the surface, a prominent environmental group said Tuesday.
The deaths — especially in dolphins, which are at the top of the food chain — are “a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem,” said National Wildlife Federation senior scientist Doug Inkley.
“Both species have very high mortality the first year, slightly lower the second year and the third year even lower, but still well above average,” Inkley said. “To have these deaths above average for so long a period of time is unprecedented.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service has said previously that many turtles probably drowned in shrimp nets and that brucellosis, a bacterial infection, was the only common thread in the dolphin deaths.
NOAA cannot comment about Inkley’s statement because its investigation of the deaths is part of the federal tally of environmental damage for oil spill litigation, spokeswoman Connie Barclay said.
OBAMA ADMIN puts out Gag order on gulf Dolphin deaths investigation…
Quote:BILOXI, Mississippi (Reuters) – The U.S. government is keeping a tight lid on its probe into scores of unexplained dolphin deaths along the Gulf Coast, possibly connected to last year’s BP oil spill, causing tension with some independent marine scientists.
Wildlife biologists contracted by the National Marine Fisheries Service to document spikes in dolphin mortality and to collect specimens and tissue samples for the agency were quietly ordered late last month to keep their findings confidential.
The gag order was contained in an agency letter informing outside scientists that its review of the dolphin die-off,classified as an “unusual mortality event (UME),” had been folded into a federal criminal investigation launched last summer into the oil spill.
“Because of the seriousness of the legal case, no data or findings may be released, presented or discussed outside the UME investigative team without prior approval,” the letter, obtained by Reuters, stated.
A number of scientists said they have been personally rebuked by federal officials for “speaking out of turn” to the media about efforts to determine the cause of some 200 dolphin deaths this year, and about 90 others last year, in the Gulf.
The federation’s report, “Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster,” was based on previously reported research by other scientists, including NOAA’s updates on the dolphin and sea turtle strandings.
The key to restoring the Gulf is conserving coastal wetlands, and it’s critical to make sure that any fines imposed from the trial now in progress in New Orleans go to that purpose, said Inkley and David Muth, director of the federation’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program. Read more…