Deepwater Horizon Day 24: Updates and Results

Today was another good one for the OMTU. No externally oiled turtles or mammals were found, we worked through many logistical challenges getting supplies and equipment ordered (through Trevor’s diligence and sweet-talking the Logistics staff), we think we have figured out how to transport dolphins from very remote locations back to facilities for full pathological workups (via Sarah’s dogged determination and exploring all the options), and the three de-oiled live sea turtles are doing very well at Audubon Aquarium.

Speaking of the necropsies, I can now share with you, my loyal readers, some of the findings in the report. We (this being the royal we, as Dr. Brian Stacy and his technician Jennifer Muller did the lion’s share of the work) evaluated 67 turtles (65 Kemp’s ridleys; 2 Loggerheads), of which 40 were complete carcasses and 16 were incomplete (e.g., scavenging, decomposed).  Some of the key findings are as follows:

  • No visible external or internal oil was observed.
  • Most turtles were in good nutritional condition, with fish in the digestive tracts. As sea turtles typically do not prey on live fish, this may be from scavenging dead fish from dead bycatch or fish kills.
  • More than 50% of intact carcasses evaluated showed signs consistent with sediment aspiration/drowning, with no evidence of disease as a cause of the strandings. Based on this, primary rule-outs for these animals are forced submergence or acute toxicosis.

So, it appears (at least visually) that oiling is not a primary cause of these turtles stranding. We are still pursuing the microscopic evaluation of the tissues, as well as the chemical analyses of the samples, but are also exploring other potential causes such as harmful algal blooms. Additional, NMFS personnel are delving deeper into other causes of “forced submergence” beyond that which could be explained by toxins or oil exposure. As I have said before, there is often not a “smoking gun” during such investigations, but often several different factors that can lead to an “outbreak” of this magnitude.

So, in closing (and closing quickly – only after 350 words!) for tonight, I’ll leave you with a couple of things. First, I will most likely have another guest blogger tomorrow, but a different one to mix things up a bit. I am trying to find different folks here and elsewhere in this response to give you some different perspectives and voices. Second, thank you all for all your very nice and heartfelt comments on this blog. It has been difficult for me to do, both from keeping the energy up to do in the evenings as well as try to move away from my scientific writing style to one a bit more personal, so it is gratifying to know that many of you have appreciated it. Third and last, just another reminder of why we are doing what we are doing (this one from Sarah):

– Mike

8 thoughts on “Deepwater Horizon Day 24: Updates and Results

  1. Mike/Greg You are both incredible!! To work the hours day after day and then sit down at the end of the day and write coherently!!Thank you. Your insights and first hand experiences are giving us a sense of the bigger picture of what is happening. I thought the Cosco Busan was a nightmare. That pales by conparison. I am ready to come if you need my help.

  2. Thumbs up from Belgium!
    You, the Oiled Wildlife Care team, are doing a great job! I wish you all the luck in the world to save as many turtles, dolphins and anything that swims around and might get harmed by the oil catastrophy, a possible. I was really sickened by the news of the drama, I hope very much that some efficient sollution comes quickly (deus ex machina?). But off course the clean up will not be finished just then. Wish I could come over and help!

  3. Is there anyone with your group in the Grand Isle area, and if so, can they contact me. I am reporting on the spills effects on wildlife, and am currently in Grand Isle, Louisiana. There are many Dolphins here, and I am very fearful for their survivorship. Also, can you explain why you call it day 24, when the oil began to flow on April, 20??

    • Hi- I started here on April 29th and started blogging, calling it my day 1. It kind of continued from there. You are right in that it is actually Day 33 of the spill. I’ll clarify this tonight. On the dolphins, we have staff from Louisiana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries monitoring them closely. We have set up Audubon Aquarium to be able to receive and care for dolphin if stranded alive. Thx for your concern and please take care down there! Mike

  4. Mike
    I appreciate the chronicling of the real work that goes into a major disaster.
    Your good attitude is a real asset.
    Thank you for doing this.

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