GoMRI RFP-V: Reproductive Failure in Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Recovery of Cetaceans (Smith)


Researcher Cynthia Smith

Concern about how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may continue to negatively affect wild bottlenose dolphins living in the spill’s footprint remains high. Researchers supporting the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) studied live and stranded dolphins in the heavily affected area of Louisiana’s Barataria Bay and reported that exposed dolphins exhibited increased lung disease, adrenal gland abnormalities, late-term pregnancy losses, and an 80% reproductive failure rate – four times greater than dolphins from unaffected areas. So how are the dolphins doing now?

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative recently awarded Dr. Cynthia Smith a grant to further investigate the dolphins’ reproductive impairment after the oil spill. Many stranded perinatal dolphins (perinates) in this region showed evidence of fetal distress and subsequent death in the womb and exhibited high reproductive failure rate. This project seeks to better understand how oil spill exposure impaired the reproductive health of this population through more precise physiologic measures and to assess how long these negative reproductive effects could last.

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This project was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) in the RFP-V funding program.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.