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Report: FL Wetlands Continue to Suffer from BP Spill

April 11, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - It's been two years since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but its effects on the wildlife and shoreline are seen daily by people in the area.

Dolphins are one example of affected sea life. Since the spill in March 2010, more than 500 dolphins have been found stranded in the area - and only 5 percent were alive. This data and more is part of a new study from the National Wildlife Federation, where Dr. Doug Inkley is a senior wildlife biologist. He's concerned about the oil spill's effects on the growth and health of even the smallest of species.

"The overall productivity to the environment - the number of fish produced, the size of the fish produced, the birds supported in the ecosystem - is dependent upon a healthy ecosystem at the base of the food chain."

NWF is asking Congress to pass the RESTORE Act, which would mandate that any fines BP is ordered to pay for the 200-million-gallon oil spill be applied to restoring the coast. The group also wants Congress to reform oil and gas leasing practices to better protect the animals and environment.

Deep sea coral is another species impacted by the oil spill. Scientists are concerned about it because coral provides a home to many other types of Gulf sea life, and the spill affected coral in at least a seven-mile radius. Inkley explains that coral takes a long time to reproduce, and estimates it could take centuries to regain what was lost.

"The Gulf oil spill is to the Gulf much like smoking is to humans. It can have an effect on your overall health, even though you still may be able to function."

As of last May, the report says, more than 800 brown pelicans had been found in the spill area, and almost 600 were dead or later died. The spill also reduced their nesting islands and mangroves, making long-term survival a challenge. For these and other reasons, Inkley believes any funds recovered from BP must be allocated exclusively for the Gulf.

"If Congress does not take action to pass a law that provides for that, then instead, the fines levied against BP and the others will go into the general treasury. They must go to the Gulf of Mexico."

The federal government is conducting a Natural Resources Damage Assessment of the spill. The studies are confidential for now, it says, but the findings will be released to the public upon completion.

The report is online at nwf.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL