by KATIE MOORE
To the surprise of some of the Gulf's best marine scientists, marine mammals, like dolphins, appear to have been spared the effects of the oil.
In fact, no dolphins have been cleaned or rehabilitated in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama since the oil spill began. It's one of the scientific mysteries of the spill.
Sea turtles are needing rehabilitation in much greater numbers.
“Mississippi had no oil for a long period of time, and these animals were coming in and coming closer to the coast line,” said Executive Director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Research Moby Solangi.
Solangi's Gulfport facility has cleaned hundreds of turtles and is rehabbing even more that were indirectly impacted by the spill.
“These big guys came from the Chandeleur Islands. That's where they're dredging. There are net boats in front of the hopper dredges and they're creating the sand berms,” he said about two turtles weighing hundreds of pounds.
The Audubon Research Institute in Louisiana has cared for 143 turtles so far.
But what you don't see much of, in either place, are dolphins.
“We expected to have debilitated animals showing up on the shoreline, or being seen out having trouble in the water. We haven't really seen that,” said Audubon’s Lead Veterinarian, Dr. Robert MacLean.
So far, in Mississippi and Alabama, Solagi has only dealt with 16 dead dolphins, a number just slightly above normal.
“We had predicted earlier that there would be larger numbers, but we have not seen it,” he said.
Solangi also said animal autopsies, called necropsies, performed here haven't shown any deaths directly related to the oil. So far, only two dead dolphins have washed ashore in Louisiana.
“It's difficult to know whether they floated through it after they died, or if the oil affected them directly. We're still waiting on necropsy results,” MacLean said.
But they know the dolphins are out swimming in it. In fact, WWL-TV caught these on tape in Barataria Bay (See video above).
“Are the susceptible? Can crude oil harm them? Yes. I'm positive it can,” MacLean said.
But the experts also said the dolphins swimming in the crude don't appear to be in distress. However, they don't know two things: what the long-term impact will be for dolphins breathing the crude fumes and eating oil-exposed fish, and they don't know whether more are washing up undetected in Louisiana's marshes.
“Louisiana, it's difficult to know because we don't have a lot of shoreline. We have a lot of marsh. It's possible, not unlikely, that we're having more mortality than we can document,” MacLean said.
“We don't know how many people are looking for them either,” Solangi said.
So for now, it will remain a marine mystery.
From The Latin American Tribune
Dozens of Turtles Found Dead on Guatemala’s Southern Coast
GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s National Council of Protected Areas, or CONAP, said Wednesday it found more than 30 dead sea turtles washed up on the country’s southern coast.
“This week alone, 30 dead turtles have been found mutilated and with signs of asphyxia on the beaches of Monterrico and Sipacate,” CONAP said in a statement.
The animals, which are dying because of fishermen’s incorrect use of Turtle Excluder Devices, become trapped in nets and suffocate, the organization said, adding that it also suspects that fishermen are using fish hooks in prohibited areas.
By law, fishing nets must be equipped with TEDs so that turtles who become ensnared are able to escape, the statement said.
CONAP’s wildlife director, Kurt Duchez, said his group has called a meeting to give fishermen and representatives of state institutions that enforce fishing laws training on the use of TEDs.
The appearance of dead turtles “is worrying” because the nesting season has just begun and efforts to protect sea turtles are already under threat, according to Jose Martinez, head of CONAP’s hydro-biological resources department.
According to CONAP, six sea turtle species nest in Guatemala and all are in danger of extinction due to poaching, over-harvesting of their eggs and pollution.