Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dolphin Deaths in The Gulf: Why the Censorship of Science?

Government Tightens Lid on Dolphin Death ProbeBy Leigh Coleman, Reuters 05 April 12

[EXCERPTED] "The U.S. government is keeping a tight lid on its probe into scores of unexplained dolphin deaths along the Gulf Coast, possibly connected to last year's BP oil spill, causing tension with some independent marine scientists.

Wildlife biologists contracted by the National Marine Fisheries Service to document spikes in dolphin mortality and to collect specimens and tissue samples for the agency were quietly ordered late last month to keep their findings confidential....

...A number of scientists said they have been personally rebuked by federal officials for "speaking out of turn" to the media about efforts to determine the cause of some 200 dolphin deaths this year, and about 90 others last year, in the Gulf....

Some researchers designated as official "partners" in the agency's Marine Mammal Stranding Network complained such constraints undermine the transparency of a process normally open to review by the scientific community.

"It throws accountability right out the window," one biologist involved in tracking dolphin deaths for more than 20 years told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "We are confused and ... we are angry because they claim they want teamwork, but at the same time they are leaving the marine experts out of the loop completely."

MAJIA HERE: A generous reading of this story is that the government is maintaining the "tight lid" on research findings on the dolphin deaths because a legal case is being built.

I certainly hope that is what is going on here.

Unfortunately, however, censorship of findings has been the norm with the BP Gulf Oil Spill. Here are some examples, embedded in a narrative I've written:

The evidence discussed so far suggests a deliberate cover-up of the scope of the disaster and the extent of contamination. BP’s control over funding of research on the spill allowed alternative data and interpretations to be suppressed, as documented by a Linda Hooper-Bui, a professor of entomology at Louisiana State University.  

Whistleblowers have spoken out about outright censorship of research data by federal authorities. For instance, University of South Florida and University of Southern Mississippi oceanographers were reportedly told by the NOAA and Coast Guard officials to stop “speculating” when they reported on underwater oil plumes in the Gulf of Mexico containing BP oil. 

University of South Florida chemical oceanographer, David Hollander, publicly challenged official assertions that oil was gone: "What we learned completely changes the idea of what an oil spill is. It has gone from a two-dimensional disaster to a three-dimensional catastrophe."  Estimates from the true scope of the contamination ranged from 44,000 square miles of ocean to 80,000.
In April of 2011, The Guardian published emails obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act documenting how BP officials sought to control scientists and their research on the oil spill.  Furthermore, the emails revealed that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confronted the White House on August 4 2010 and demanded it issue a correction to its claim that the “vast majority” of oil was gone from the gulf. 

The Guardian's documents also indicated that Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA, and Bob Perciasepe, deputy director, had objected to the White House estimates. Together, these documents demonstrate that the White House acted deliberately to deceive the public about the effectiveness of the clean-up and suppressed agency dissent over the cover-up.
Punitive damages were at issue in the research over the scope of the spill’s effects. BP would be required to pay for the oil spilled and the marine animals killed. BP was also responsible for some compensation to the fisherman whose livelihoods had been disrupted. However, all allegations had to be proven and BP and the government conspired to hide the scope of the disaster in a variety of ways. 

The use of Corexit to “hide” the oil was perhaps the most extreme example of duplicity in this regard. Second, BP allegedly sought out and destroyed dead marine animals including dolphins in whales without tallying the death toll.  Third, the U.S. Presidential Commission 2011 report on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill “reduces the likelihood that BP PLC will be found guilty of gross negligence, legal experts and industry analysts said.” 


Linda Hooper-Bui “A Gulf Science Blackout,” The New York Times (2010, August 24):
Cited in Stephen Lendman “America’s Gulf: A Toxic Crime Scene,” OpEdNews.Com (2010, August 11):

 Lendman “America’s Gulf: A Toxic Crime Scene,”

 Suzanne Goldenberg “Emails expose BP's attempts to control research into impact of Gulf oil spill,” The Guardian (2011, April 15):
See also Tom Dickinson “The Spill, The Scandal and the President,” The Rolling Stone (2010, June 8):
Jeff Goodell “The Poisoning. It's the Biggest Environmental Disaster in American History — and BP is Making it Worse,” The Rolling Stone (2010, July 21):

Guy Chazan “Oil spill Report Could Limit BP Payout,” The Wall Street Journal (2011, January 7): B3.

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