Five years after the BP oil spill, the environmental impacts are still being felt.
According to a report released Monday by the National Wildlife Federation, animals such as dolphins were found dead at four times the historic rates in 2014. The group believes the oil spill may be to blame.
"Bottle-nosed dolphins in the places most-affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are very sick, their pregnancies are failing, and they're dying in large numbers," said Ryan Fikes, a restoration scientist with the National Wildlife Federation.
"These dolphins have been intensively studied and the science points very strongly at the after-effects of the Deepwater Horizon."
The report looks at the effects the spill has had on 20 species of wildlife around the Gulf of Mexico.
The findings include:
- Dolphins on the Louisiana coast were found dead at four times historic rates in 2014, and there is increasing evidence that these ongoing deaths are connected to the oil spill.
- Prior to the spill, the number of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests found annually was increasing rapidly, but since 2010, the nests found annually have declined on average.
- Exposure to oil has been shown to cause abnormal development in many species of fish, including mahi mahi, Gulf killifish and bluefin and yellowfin tuna.
- Comprehensive modeling estimates that 12 percent of the brown pelicans and 32 percent of the laughing gulls in the northern Gulf died as a result of the oil spill.
- Oil and dispersant compounds have been found in the eggs of white pelicans nesting in three Midwestern states—Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
- Spotted seatrout, also known as speckled trout, spawned less frequently in 2011 in both Louisiana and Mississippi than in previous years.
- 2010 and 2011 had the lowest numbers of juvenile red snapper seen in the eastern Gulf fishery since 1994.
- Coral colonies in five separate locations in the Gulf—three in the deep sea and two in shallower waters—are showing signs of oil damage.
- Sperm whales are spending less time foraging in the area around the wellhead.
- Oil has been found in sediments deep in the Gulf of Mexico, in a 1,200-square mile area around the wellhead.
A federal judge is expected to rule soon in the case against BP and other companies for violations of the Clean Water Act.
The Restore Act, passed in 2012, mandates the money the government receives is sent back to the five affected Gulf states - which include Florida. The money will be available through grants for programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy around the Gulf.
"It is absolutely essential that the White House and the Cabinet members that are part of the Restore Council and the overall Gulf effort ensure that the Deepwater Horizon fines and penalties are spent on truly large-scale, comprehensive ecosystem restoration projects that improve the health of the whole Gulf," said Collin O'Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
The federation has plans for numerous projects, including the restoration of wetlands and the rebuilding of oyster reefs.
Here's BP's response to this report, from Geoff Morrell, BP Senior Vice President, U.S. Communications & External Affairs:
"The National Wildlife Federation report is a work of political advocacy by an organization that has referred to the Deepwater Horizon accident as “an historic opportunity” to finance its policy agenda. NWF is not a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustee and not party to the NRDA studies undertaken to determine potential injury to natural resources that resulted from the accident. The NWF report conveniently overlooks five years’ worth of government data and information from third-party scientific papers that show that damages were limited and the Gulf is undergoing a strong recovery. The dire predictions made in 2010 have fortunately not come to pass – in large part because of the Gulf’s resilience, natural processes and the effectiveness of response and clean-up efforts mounted by BP under the direction of the federal government.
BP is committed to restoring all natural resources that credible science shows were harmed by the spill. To that end, we have already spent $1.3 billion to fund the Deepwater Horizon NRDA, the largest-ever assessment of potential injury to natural resources. We also made an unprecedented, voluntary commitment of $1 billion to early restoration of injured resources. That pledge has allowed 54 restoration projects, costing approximately $700 million, to move forward while the multi-year NRDA process is ongoing."