Study Estimates BP Spill Killed Over 800,000 Birds
JAMES EDWARD BATES/SUN HERALD FILEA worker at the Mississippi Wildlife Response Center in Gulfport uses a toothbrush to clean oil from the head of a laughing gull in 2010. The center was set up to clean birds found oiled by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Between 600,000 and 800,000 birds have died along the Gulf Coast as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, according to a study to be released this summer by the Marine Ecology Progress Series.
Pascagoula River Audubon Center Director Mark LaSalle believes the total is in the seven-figure range.
Whatever the number, LaSalle said the massive loss is a “major blow” to the ecosystem.
“It’s hard to put it into context,” he said, adding “we may not ever know exactly how many” birds died as a result of the spill.
Although the numbers give insight into the total damage, this study was conducted independently. BP will be responsible only for damage determined by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment study. LaSalle said the official NRDA results aren’t expected to be available to the public until the legal process is completed.
In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana, releasing nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The findings of the latest study show far more bird deaths from the spill than originally estimated, according to the Ocean Conservancy.
Officials at BP, however, dispute the findings.
“The results of the models used in this paper are based on general assumptions by the authors,” a press release at StateoftheGulf.com said. “However, wildlife is managed on behalf of the public by federal and state natural resource trustees who are conducting the Natural Resource Damage Assessment. Data collected through the cooperative NRDA process show that many of the authors’ assumptions are not valid for the Deepwater Horizon accident. If the authors ran their models with numbers specific to the Deepwater Horizon accident, their estimates would be substantially lower.”
In the statement, BP said the authors of the study assumed 1 percent of birds that died in the Gulf washed ashore, but BP said field studies by the NRDA indicated 70 percent washed ashore.
As a comparison, the Ocean Conservancy said the estimated number of dead birds following the Exxon Valdez oil spill was 300,000.