Dolphins from oiled La. bay show health problems
Scientists say 32 dolphins taken for research purposes from Louisiana's Barataria Bay in August 2011 were in overall poor health, adding that their studies don't yet definitely tie the mammals’ illnesses to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. During a teleconference today, Lori Schwacke of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the dolphins were underweight and anemic and showed signs of liver and lung disease. Nearly half had low levels of stress hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function. Thirty-one of the 32 are still alive, although Schwacke says survival prospects for many are grim. Schwacke says the hormone problem cannot be definitively tied to the oil spill but is "consistent with oil exposure to other mammals." Scientists have been investigating an unusually large number of dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico since February 2010, two months before the BP oil spill began. Teri Rowles, another NOAA researcher on the project, says two causes of previous dolphin death outbreaks—marine biotoxins and a virus—had been eliminated. Also since February 2010, NOAA has reported 180 dolphins being stranded in the three parishes that surround Barataria Bay—Jefferson, Plaquemines and Lafourche. That would represent about 18% of the 1,000 estimated dolphins in the bay, Rowles said. Over the same time, NOAA has reported 693 dolphin and whale strandings from the Texas-Louisiana border to the Florida Panhandle. Ninety-five percent of those mammals were found dead. Normally, the region sees 74 reported dolphin deaths a year.
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