In Barataria Bay, scientists and researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association have been studying bottlenose dolphins in the wake of the BP oil disaster.
The NOAA performed physicals on 32 dolphins in 2011, and today, the early results are dramatic: many are "underweight, anemic, have low blood sugar and/or some symptoms of liver and lung disease," and "nearly half also have abnormally low levels of the hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function." One of those dolphins died in early 2012.
An "Unusual Mortality Event" was declared by NOAA following a spike in dolphins entering (and dying in) the northern Gulf of Mexico — since February 2010, NOAA said, more than 675 dolphins have been stranded there (atypical of an average 74 per year). Most have died, but 33 were stranded alive, and seven were put into rehabilitation, according to NOAA.
NOAA told Baton Rouge's Advocate that though a link can't be made between the 2010 oil disaster and the plunge in dolphin health, it's been seen before.
The study was performed under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a requirement under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.