Friday, April 20, 2012
Peru’s massive dolphin die-off sparks concern over oil search by Simeon Tegel (Global Post)
LIMA, Peru — Dolphins have been dying along this South American country’s northern coast in unprecedented numbers. Conservationists say the die-off could be the result of seismic testing by a private oil company.
The bodies of about 3,000 animals, principally short-beaked common dolphins, have washed up on beaches since early February, according to research conducted by veterinarian Carlos Yaipen-Llanos, founder and scientific director of Peruvian marine conservation group Orca. The animals have no outward signs of trauma and researchers are continuing to investigate possible causes.
Nevertheless, some experts are pointing the finger at seismic testing used by Houston-headquartered oil company BPZ in that stretch of the Pacific. The technology involves analyzing the echoes of underwater explosions for evidence of oil reserves.
Yaipen-Llanos said bubbles and blood had been found in the sinuses of some of the dolphins.
That’s an indication of the bends, or decompression sickness, potentially caused by the animals’ panicked rapid ascent to the surface to escape the noise of the explosions.
“This is the worst incident of mass dolphin mortality I am aware of in the Americas,” Yaipen-Llanos told GlobalPost.
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He added that the sound of the seismic testing can travel more than 100 miles in the open seas and the frequency fell right in dolphins’ normal hearing range.
Patricia Majluf, the deputy minister of fisheries, told the Peruvian congress last week that BPZ executives in a meeting had been unable to give her clear answers regarding the effects of their oil exploration on marine mammals.