National Wildlife Federation releases oil spill impact report

National Wildlife Federation releases oil spill impact report

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - This week marks the sixth anniversary of the BP oil spill in 2010.

On Monday, the National Wildlife Federation released a report that outlines the impact of the disaster and priorities for restoration.

Dolphins and sea turtles are among the animals most affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

A noticeable spike in dolphin strandings has been linked to the spill, along with the deaths of turtles, including the endangered Kemp's Ridley.

"As many as 167,000 sea turtles were estimated to have been killed during the disaster. And that number could include as many as 20% of the Kemp's Ridley adult female population," said Ryan Fikes, a scientist with the National Wildlife Federation.

"There are chronic effects that are resulting in some of the animal deaths both in dolphins and turtles. Some of these chronic effects could reduce the immunity of these animals. And they succumb to some of the diseases," said Dr. Moby Solangi, who directs the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.

Dr. Solangi says IMMS is already making a major contribution to helping restore the Kemp's Ridley turtles, with its rehab and release program.

"With sea turtles, we are rehabbing and putting them back. So, instead of letting them die, our rehabilitation for example, 300 Kemp's Ridleys a year is a major restoration effort," he explained.

The report outlines the devastating impact of the oil spill on the oyster industry. An estimated 8.3 billion oysters were lost to the disaster, along with an unsettling prognosis.

"The subsequent dramatic decrease in oyster densities, and the associated reproductive injury imperils the sustainability of oysters in the northern Gulf of Mexico. And we all know how important that species is here in the region," said Fikes.

The National Wildlife Federation says the restoration focus should be on improving estuaries. Scientists we talked with say that makes good sense for the long term health of the gulf.

"That's where our shrimp and our crab and our fish, they get their start there. A healthy estuary equals healthy seafood production, and a healthy environment for us to enjoy as well," said Dr. Kelly Lucas, chief scientific officer with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

One more interesting takeaway from Monday's report: The National Wildlife Service says an estimated 30% of the oil released by the well six years ago remains unaccounted for to this day.

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