Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gulf Oil Spill: How Wildlife Is Still Challenged Four Years Later

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gulf Oil Spill: How Wildlife Is Still Challenged Four Years Later

Article excerpt

Four years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill released more than 200 million gallons of crude into the water, a leading environmental organization says the migratory and reproductive cycles of area wildlife have been severely altered and at least one species of sea turtles is close to extinction.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report, issued Tuesday, focused on 14 water, air, and land species located in the northern Gulf and affected by the oil spill, using data from independent scientists and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Four years later, wildlife in the Gulf are still feeling the impacts of the spill," Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the NWF, told reporters in a teleconference Tuesday. "The science is telling us that this is not over."

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill occurred after an explosion at an oil rig on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people. The spill is among the worst environmental disasters in American history, sending crude gushing into the Gulf's delicate ecosystem of marshes, streams, and beaches.

Evidence early on indicated that wildlife was slicked with oil, but scientists say the most profound environmental damage can only be tracked over years. They use the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska as an example: Twenty-five years later, scientists say, some species have not yet fully recovered.

According to Tuesday's report:

- Tens of thousands of sea turtles suffered oil exposure. The number of Kemp's Ridleys, one of five species of sea turtles in the Gulf and the one considered the most endangered, fell 35 percent between 2009 and 2010 and has been "flat-lined" since, according to Pamela Plotkin, an associate research professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University in College Station. "We're really concerned ... that there have been some long-term impacts as a result of the oil spill," she says.

- More than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded since 2010. Those that have survived have been evaluated as underweight or anemic. …

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