Gulf Oil Spill’s Effect on Whales Downplayed by NOAA, New Documents Reveal


dead sperm whale gulf oil spill photoNOAA/Public Domain

More information has come to light showing the nature of how US government agencies tried to keep a tight lid on how the Gulf oil spill was affecting whales.

The Guardian has been given documents obtained by Greenpeace under Freedom of Information Act requests showing that in 2010 NOAA downplayed the discovery of a floating dead sperm whale and the fate of five other whales, including a juvenile, that had obviously been covered in oil from the spill.

Though NOAA did issue a press release about the discovery of the whale, these new documents show, in the words of The Guardian, that “the release was edited and shortened in a way which appeared to minimize the effects of oil on whales.”

Furthermore, a gag order was put in place on crew members of research ship Pisces, something which apparently didn’t sit well with crew members.

While some amount of caution regarding communication in such situations is no doubt warranted—The Guardian points out that the number of dead animals figures into the payout BP will have to face, and certainly premature speculation on the cause of death or fate of oil-exposed whales could impact that—this latest news fits into a pattern of apparent downplaying of the size of the spill, as well as its effects on animals, at the time by both the Obama administration, as well as the oil companies involved.

No one really wants to face up to the effects of oil addiction, it seems.

Documents obtained by Greenpeace show that NOAA’s press release on a dead sperm whale didn’t tell the full story.

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