BP oil spill spreads toward Pensacola, as wildlife toll rises
The BP oil spill is moving eastward, threatening beaches like Pensacola, Fla., as oil balls wash ashore and Gulf animals die at unusually high rates.
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As a result, federal and state governments are moving booms and skimmers eastward.
Meanwhile, the National Wildlife Federation reported Wednesday that six to nine times more sea turtles are turning up dead than usual. Similarly, the 29 stranded dolphins found since the spill began represent two to six times the normal amount. So far, 444 birds and 222 sea turtles have been found dead in the area, according to a recent tally provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
It's not yet clear whether a higher than average dolphin mortality rate can be blamed on the spill, although "no oil" has so far been found inside the dead dolphins, says Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Species ranging from sperm whales to Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, from pelicans to already depleted bluefin tuna, could all be impacted by the spill, scientists say. The degree to which dispersants being used have made the situation better or worse for sea life is one key question NOAA scientists will try to answer in an unprecedented federal study of the worst oil spill in US history.
In Louisiana, 120 miles of shoreline has been inundated by oil from the spill.