A large number of dolphins have been discovered on the coast of Peru with an unexplained similar injury on all of them. Unlike the previous mass die-offs of 2011, this most recent event has the dolphins all exhibiting signs of rupturing to their middle ear. The tragedy has been unfolding to be the largest die-off of dolphins in recorded history – and no one knows the cause.
In 2011 there was a media frenzy over the incredible and unexplained mass die-offs of animals all over the world. Right from the start, on January first there were questions over a flock of birds who unexpectedly ran into the ground, killing themselves. With everything from fish to squid to much larger bird species being discovered dead around the globe in large numbers, there were many questions in the early months of 2011. And while the die-offs seem to have -until now- gotten smaller as time goes on, the most recent case has some biologists concerned.
Among the several proposed causes, the Scientific American has suggested the cause could be related to sound. Carlos Yaipen of the Scientific Organization for the Conservation of Aquatic Animals in Peru analyzed twenty of the recently deceased dolphins and suggests it could have been caused by major acoustic impact. Of those studies, several had died just before or after being discovered on the beach. The impact would have made it difficult for the dolphins either to breathe or navigate in the intensely loud environment. And in this age of sudden unexplained die-offs, the cause could just as easily remain a mystery forever. Still, a few theories have been put forward including work being done by the nearby oil tests or sonar. At the moment the number of dead rests somewhere between 1500 and 2800. Early accounts linked the deaths to the 2010 BP oil spill as being a contributing factor.
Indeed, since the spill an estimated 600 dolphins have been beached near the Gulf of Mexico with those who are beached suffering a 95% mortality rate. Are we only now beginning to see the true impact the BP oil spill could have on the oceans?
Before this latest event in Peru, the largest die-off of bottlenose dolphins was attributed to the oil spill when the NRDC recorded a 25 month long catastrophe involving the creatures. Although certainly worth noting, the NRDC has noted that any link to the BP oil spill is not completely conclusive – although it certainly seems that way to many.
Are we on the brink of an extended devastating ecological disaster? And what will the culprit of this extensive damage be? The civil trial over the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill was set to begin in February, but talks of settlements began to delay the process. The legal bill alone for the company is expected to exceed $1.73 billion.
Throughout its relatively short history, BP has become a veteran of the courtroom. In 2001 and again in 2005 Mother Jones Magazine listed BP as one of the ten worst corporations based on its environmental and human rights records. In 1991 the EPA labeled BP as one of the most polluting companies on record.
Will we discover the cause of this massive die-off of marine wildlife? Only time will tell.