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Five Years after Oil Spill, Wildlife Still Struggling

PHOTO: One thousand bottlenose dolphins have been found dead in an area stretching from the Florida Panhandle to the Texas-Louisiana border in the five years since the BP oil spill. Photo Credit: Courtesy Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
PHOTO: One thousand bottlenose dolphins have been found dead in an area stretching from the Florida Panhandle to the Texas-Louisiana border in the five years since the BP oil spill. Photo Credit: Courtesy Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
April 3, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - Five years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 workers and released at least 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists still are studying the environmental impacts.

BP said its data shows the waters are returning to normal, but a new report by the National Wildlife Federation tells a different story. Ryan Fikes, a scientist with the federation, said dolphins are dying and continue to be stranded along the Louisiana coast at four times the rate before the spill.

"There's increasing evidence that these ongoing deaths are connected to the 2010 oil disaster," he said, "which is precisely the opposite of what BP's report pinpoints."

The federation's report found that after the spill, 1,000 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead in an area stretching from the Florida Panhandle to the Texas-Louisiana border.

The Gulf is home to more than 15,000 species of wildlife. According to the report, fish, crabs, oysters, birds, sea turtles, coral reefs and even insects continue to show signs of trouble in connection with the spill. Fikes said sperm whales are feeding less in the area around the wellhead.

"These are critical feeding grounds for sperm whale," he said. "They feed on giant squid, which are known to occur in that area."

Much of the scientific data still has not been released to the public because of the federal government's ongoing case against BP and other companies for violations of the Oil Pollution Act. A decision by a federal judge on the company's Clean Water Act fines is expected soon.

The report is online at nwf.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX