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Mississippi Scientists Studying Dolphins for BP Oil Spill Damage Assessment

By Rhonda Miller | Published 16 May 2012 07:07pm | comments
Scientists from NOAA Fisheries in Pascagoula take identification photos of dolphins as part of a two-year study to assess damage from the BP oil spill.

Scientists are assessing damages to the environment caused by the BP oil spill. MPB’s Rhonda Miller went out with researchers studying dolphins in Mississippi waters and has this report.

The boat stops near Petit Bois Island so researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Pascagoula can take close-up photos of the dolphins. This is part of a two-year-study of dolphins in Mississippi waters to measure the effect of the BP oil spill.

"There’s a little neonate, young of the year, with this animal here. It’s a real small calf.  It surfaced on the other side, there it is."

"There he is, right here."

Keith Mullin is a research biologist with NOAA Fisheries.

"We want to see how abundance changes or doesn’t change over the study period. We can also make estimates of survival. Basically how many do we think are living from one season to the next or one year to the next. We can also get estimates of reproduction, we can count the number of neonates."

This is one small piece of the colossal Natural Resource Damage Assessment covering Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.  

Most of the research results are being kept confidential to be used in legal action against BP.  But NOAA spokesman Tim Zink says some findings have been released, like a study of dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, which was heavily oiled by the spill.  

"We found dolphins that had very low body weight. They had low levels of certain hormones. They were very sick dolphins, in a nutshell."

The studies also include sea turtles, fish, shellfish, birds, beaches and marshes. Federal officials say the research is expected to continue for many years.

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Scientists from NOAA Fisheries in Pascagoula take identification photos of dolphins as part of a two-year study to assess damage from the BP oil spill.


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