[MARMAM] BP oil spill cetacean research

Natacha Aguilar naguilarsoto at gmail.com
Sat Jul 17 05:23:23 PDT 2010

Dear All,

William Rossiter wrote a few days ago about the BP oils spill in the Gulf,
and he included the following:

"(...) shore, marine and aerial surveys, stranding responses and rehab
efforts are obvious needs, (...)"

It is easy to agree completely with him.

So, would anybody please update us, the community, about what is going on
with respect to dedicated cetacean surveys offshore to assess the status of
the animals found in/out of the main affected areas? Are these surveys
happening? Are they using acoustic means to help finding the animals? What
kind of data are being gathered?

While there are counts of cetaceans found dead, there is not much
information about if all these are stranded specimens. It is predictable
that cetaceans have been cought in areas covered by oil offshore, mainly
when the Mississippy Canyon is a well known concentration area for sperm
whales and other deep divers. Only dedicated surveys finding the animals and
assessing their status can quantify the extent of the effect.

In addition to the short-term effects and the direct mortalities of
cetaceans, the message from Craig Markin showed us an example of how oil
spills may affect cetacean in the long term, even with population effects in
some cases. As a community of scientist and people interested on cetaceans
and marine mammals in general, I think that the main associations (SOLAMAC,
ECS, SMM, ASCOBAMS, ACCOBAMS...) should write a statement of concern on the
impact of the oil spill. Furthermore, we should support an international
moratoria in offshore drilling, given that this spill has shown that the
deep-drilling technology is too risky, not able of preventing strong damages
in the marine ecosystem.

Thanks a lot for the update and happy to give a hand if these initiatives
are put forward


Natacha Aguilar (naguilar at ull.es)
La Laguna University, Tenerife, Canary Islands
Leigh Marine Lab. Univ. Auckland. New Zealand
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