Collaborative study with NOAA shows some Gulf dolphins severely ill

Jan 19, 2013 No comments By


Bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay, LA, a site which received significant and prolonged oiling following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, are showing signs of ill health. The dolphins were evaluated in August, 2011 as part of a collaborative study involving NOAA and CZS. Methods for the assessment were modeled after those developed by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.  Sarasota Bay, which did not receive significant oil, was used as a reference site for comparison of dolphin health parameters.

Y12, a 16-year old, adult male bottlenose dolphin caught near Grand Isle

Veterinarians prepare to collect a urine sample from Y12, a 16-year old, adult male bottlenose dolphin caught near Grand Isle during health assessments conducted in August 2011. Y12’s health evaluation determined that he was significantly underweight, anemic, and had indications of liver and lung disease.

Preliminary results based on comprehensive physicals of 32 dolphins found that Barataria Bay dolphins are underweight, anemic, and many have symptoms of liver and lung disease. Nearly half of the dolphins sampled had abnormally low levels of hormones that help with stress response,

Y12’s carcass with signs of extreme emaciation

Y12’s carcass was recovered on Grand Isle Beach, 31 January 2012. The visible ribs, prominent vertebral processes, and depressions along the back are signs of extreme emaciation. A necropsy was performed and samples were collected to help determine cause of death and potential contributing factors.

metabolism and immune function. Many of the dolphins were in such poor health that they likely will not survive. Y12, one of the sampled dolphins, was found dead in January 2012.

NOAA, with CZS and local, state and federal partners, in cooperation with BP, initiated the Barataria Bay dolphin study in 2011 as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), the process for studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


This article was published on page 8 in the January 2013 Nicks n Notches.


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Lori works at NOAA, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
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