April 20 marks the four-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill -- which, for a disaster of that scale, is practically no time at all.
Checking in on the region, the National Wildlife Foundation released a new report identifying 14 species still showing symptoms of oil exposure. Among the findings, they highlight:
- There is strong evidence that the ongoing illness of dolphins in a heavily oiled section of Louisiana is related to oil exposure.
- Roughly five hundred dead sea turtles have been found every year for the past three years in the area affected by the spill—a dramatic increase over normal rates.
- Oyster reproduction remained low over large areas of the northern Gulf at least through the fall of 2012.
- A chemical in oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill has been shown to cause irregular heartbeats in bluefin and yellowfin tuna that can lead to heart attacks, or even death.
- Loons that winter on the Louisiana coast have increasing concentrations of toxic oil compounds in their blood.
- Sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico have higher levels of DNA-damaging metals than sperm whales elsewhere in the world—metals that were present in oil from BP’s well.
BP, which takes issue with some of the studies cited in the report, dismissed its overall findings. "The National Wildlife Federation report is a piece of political advocacy – not science," it responded in a statement.
"Despite what BP would have you believe, the impacts of the disaster are ongoing," emphasized Sara Gonzalez-Rothi, the NWF’s senior policy specialist for Gulf and coastal restoration.
"The oil is not gone: There is oil on the bottom of the Gulf, oil is washing up on the beaches, and oil is still on the marshes," said NWF senior scientist Doug Inkley. "I am not surprised by this. In Prince William Sound, 25 years after the wreck of Exxon Valdez, there are still some species that have not fully recovered."