Did oil spill cause dolphin deaths?

By Samantha Ptashkin - Reporter

GALVESTON, Texas - It has been two weeks since an oil barge and cargo ship collided in the Houston Ship Channel and now researchers are looking into the possibility that the oil spill may be causing more dolphin deaths than normal.

Since the spill, at least 29 dolphins have been found in the Galveston area. That brings the March total to 47, which is more than the usual 34.

Heidi Whitehead of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network says it's typical to find more dolphins between January and March, which is known as the stranding season.

However, she says because of the spill, her team is taking a closer look at what they're finding.
Of the 29 dolphins found dead over the last two weeks, Whitehead says two have had visible signs of oil on them. However, she said that doesn't necessarily mean that is why they died. 

"We are still working to find out if the oil did play a role in their death," Whitehead said. "It's possible these animals could have been oiled externally after they died."

Right now researchers are collecting data samples. Whitehead says it could take weeks to months to determine the oil spill's impact. 

She also said it's possible they have found more dolphins because right now there are more people monitoring the coast as they work to clean up from the spill.

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