Nearly five years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, numerous wildlife species in the Gulf of Mexico are still threatened, according to an environmental group's report.
The report by the National Wildlife Federation says 20 species continue to undergo problems as a result of the oil that was spilled in the Gulf in 2010 as well as the dispersants that were used in the subsequent cleanup process.
The federation argues in its report that the spill has adversely affected sea turtle nesting, bird habitat, pelican reproduction, and development of several fish species including mahi-mahi, Atlantic bluefin and yellowfin tuna. They also pointed to an unprecedented spike in dolphin deaths in the Gulf as a consequence of the oil spill, citing studies by NOAA researchers. The NOAA is still investigating the dolphin deaths, and while the agency has mentioned the oil spill as a possible cause, states there is not yet enough evidence to confirm this.
The NWF says the report calls for more scientific monitoring of the gulf and the 13,000 species which reside in it. The environmental group also said more focus is needed on restoring damaged areas, and ensuring that the billions in fines that BP and other responsible parties paid for their role in the spill are applied towards conservation projects.
BP Senior Vice President Geoff Morrell objected to the environmental group's claims, saying the foundation is not part of the official damage assessment but that the company is committed "to restoring all natural resources that credible science shows were harmed by the spill."
Morrell said the Gulf is recovering and accused the NWF of using the disaster as an opportunity to further their agenda.
BP released its own study on the state of the Gulf on March 17, claiming that the wildlife and ecosystems were rebounding, and that there is no significant long-term impact on the area. That report was widely criticized for making premature statements about the lasting impact to the Gulf, considering that the official Natural Resource Damage Assessment required under the federal Oil Pollution Act has not been completed.
While environmental groups and BP have long been at odds on the condition of the disaster area, most scientists contend that, even five years after the spill that dumped 210 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico, it's far too soon to tell exactly how much damage has been done.