A new scientific study estimates that BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed between 600,000 and 800,000 coastal seabirds, a figure that surpasses previous estimates and underscores that likelihood that the 2010 disaster’s effects continue to send devastating shockwaves through the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem.
According to a Marine Ecology Progress Series study, at least twice as many seabirds died as a result of the BP oil spill than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the second-largest oil spill in U.S. history and far smaller than the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Scientists estimated that the Valdez spill killed about 300,000 seabirds.
As it has done repeatedly with scientific conclusions about the spill’s vast damage on the Gulf ecosystem, BP disputes the results, the methodology used, and the objectivity of the authors.
According to the Ocean Conservancy:
Many of the studies that BP cites as counter arguments have not been shared with the public, and as far as we know, have not been peer reviewed. BP’s veil of confidentiality prevents the public from understanding their methodology and results. This is an obvious double standard, and we must ask ourselves: who has more to gain from discrediting these findings and underestimating bird mortality than BP?
The Ocean Conservancy adds that BP “is refusing to pay for key science critical to fully understanding the effects of the disaster on natural resources,” and questions the oil giant’s handling of environmental damage assessments as it continues its legal battle.
Authors of the new study, however, believe it is likely even their figures underestimate the toll that the BP spill has had on birds. For instance, the study does not include in its totals birds that live in the marshes or further than 40 miles from the coast. Scientists do know that the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most vital regions on earth for migratory birds, but it is impossible to measure the true scope of the BP spill because its reach extends far beyond the Gulf.
The Ocean Conservancy called on BP to release all of its data, arguing that “In order to increase transparency and have an accurate discussion about how to best estimate bird mortality or other impacts, it is necessary for all of the data and methods be on the table.
“This is critical information that managers and scientists need in order to know the full extent of the injury,” the Ocean Conservancy stated. “And BP is blocking this information because they’re in the middle of a legal battle over the oil disaster.”