"It is related to oil," said the NOAA's Lori Schwacke, the lead author of a paper published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, to the Wall Street Journal. The study tested populations of bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf as well as populations off the Atlantic coast of Florida, which was not affected by the oil spill. The findings:
Moderate to severe lung diseases associated with oil contamination were prevalent among many of the dolphins, and almost half had "a guarded or worse prognosis, and 17% were considered poor or grave, indicating they weren't expected to live," according to the study. Dolphins in the area likely will have more difficulty reproducing, the study found.
BP, which funded but did not otherwise participate in the study, disputes the results, saying those symptoms could come from other contaminants in the Gulf, like algal blooms or pesticides. The study, though, tested for those chemicals as well, and found low concentrations in the dolphins.
Read more about the study here.