On October 5, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice lodged a consent decree as part of a proposed $20 billion comprehensive settlement among BP, the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of federal agencies, and the five affected Gulf States to resolve liabilities arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As part of this settlement agreement, a draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PDARP/PEIS) was released documenting impacts from the oil spill and proposed restoration to address the natural resource damages. Results of data analyses involving injury to dolphin populations are included in the PDARP/PEIS, and findings from numerous studies are being prepared for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP) has played a role in this investigation. Our long-term research in Sarasota Bay has provided crucial reference data on dolphin health, life history, and population dynamics for comparison with data from oiled sites in the northern Gulf, including Barataria Bay, Louisiana, and Mississippi Sound. The SDRP was responsible for tagging and tracking dolphins in Barataria Bay and Mississippi Sound to determine their ranging patterns. Our findings of remarkably strong site fidelity for Barataria Bay dolphins are being prepared in a manuscript for publication, and will be presented at the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s Biennial Conference in San Francisco in December 2015. All of the movements of the 44 dolphins tagged with satellite-linked transmitters during 2011, 2013, and 2014 were within the Barataria Bay region.
This article appeared on page 5 in the December 2015 issue of Nicks n Notches.