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List of Animals Affected and Endangered by the Gulf of Mexico BP Oil Spill

Updated on January 16, 2012

Oiled Pelicans

Oil-soaked Pelicans from the Gulf Oil Spill, June 3, 2010
Oil-soaked Pelicans from the Gulf Oil Spill, June 3, 2010
NASA Image of the Gulf Oil Spill, May 24, 2010
NASA Image of the Gulf Oil Spill, May 24, 2010

List of Endangered Species From The Gulf Oil Spill

It has long been known that pollution caused by human activity can have tragic effects on wildlife. From the toxic runoff from heavy industry, to accidental environmental contamination and the use of DDT in the last half of the 20th Century, countless animals have been faced with extinction as a direct result of human activity. Whether the pollution was intentional or accidental, regulated or not, the devastation it can cause is undeniable.

In April 2010, the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon oil rig failed, killing 11 workers and releasing an unprecedented amount of crude oil into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In the months that followed, efforts to cap the leak failed, and the oil began reaching shore in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. With hurricane season looming, the forecast was dire – hurricane force winds and waves could force the oil inland and alter local underwater currents, possibly spreading the contamination well beyond the Gulf.

NASA Satellites' View of Gulf BP Oil Spill Over Time

One of the inevitable consequences of this unprecedented oil spill by BP will be a dire impact on many animal species in the region, quite a few of which were already in trouble before the massive release of oil into the Gulf.

Most of the animals immediately affected were sea creatures – from fish to turtles to marine mammals – and as the oil reached closer to land, other animals – nesting and migrating birds, especially – began to feel the impact of this environmental catastrophe.

The long term results of this disaster will affect not just the animals directly in the path of the leaking BP oil, but also the millions of people who rely on the natural bounty of the Gulf for their livelihood. From fisherman to beachfront business owners, the impact of the Gulf oil spill will be a heavy one for years to come…

Some of the animal species endangered by the Gulf oil spill

Endangered Species Facts and Photos

Bluefin Tune
Bluefin Tune

Bluefin Tuna

Prior to the 2010 Gulf BP oil spill, the Bluefin Tuna was already in danger of extinction. Efforts by the international community to place the fish on the endangered species list were fought off by Japan and several “puppet” nations during the most recent meeting IUCN Endangered Species Conference. Despite the clear problems caused by over-fishing in the waters of the world, the species was left off of the Endangered Species list, and will almost certainly be fished into extinction as their population is demolished for use as food.

The Gulf oil spill came at the worst possible time of year. The Bluefin Tuna that populate the Gulf of Mexico were beginning their annual spawn just as the spill occurred. With their worldwide population already depleted by 90% since the 1970s, any hope for the survival of the Bluefin populations in the Gulf is unlikely. One of the components of the clean up strategy is the use of “dispersants” to break up the surface oil and prevent it from washing ashore. Instead, the oil would sink to the bottom of the Gulf, where Bluefin Tuna and other spawning fish lay their eggs.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans

The Brown Pelican is Louisiana’s state bird, and it was placed on the Endangered Species list in the 1970s after the species was nearly wiped out due to the use of DDT. Finally approaching recovery, the Brown Pelican was removed from the Endangered Species list in November of 2009. Just 6 months later, the worst oil spill in U.S. history occurred right in the birds’ primary habitat, the Gulf of Mexico.

Brown Pelicans, like other diving birds, are severely affected by any oil spill, and the BP oil spill is no different. The surface coating of oil on the water means that the birds’ feathers become soaked with oil every time they dive for food. This coating of oil can remove the natural waterproofing in their feathers, causing them to drown. Even if only a small bit of oil covers its feathers, the Brown Pelican can lose its ability to keep warm, and the birds can freeze to death in cooler weather.

Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin
Sperm Whale Fluke
Sperm Whale Fluke

Bottlenose Dolphins and Sperm Whales

Marine mammals that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico, like Bottlenose Dolphins and Sperm Whales, can be severely impacted by the presence of oil in the water. The oil on the surface of the water can enter the animals’ blowholes when the surface to breath, and the toxic fumes emitted by nearby crude oil and the fumes from controlled burning can cause irritation and lung damage. The ingesting of oil-contaminated fish can lead to poisoning, and the sensitive skin of these marine mammals can become irritated and infected by coming into contact with oil both on and below the surface of the water.

Sperm Whale populations around the world have been at risk for decades. Though hunting of these largest of the toothed-whales has been banned for decades, the already devastated populations have had a difficult time recovering their historical numbers. The area around the Gulf oil spill is prime Sperm Whale habitat, and since their time to maturity is quite long, even the loss of just a few animals can severely impact the long-term population levels of the species.

Kemp's Ridley Turtle
Kemp's Ridley Turtle
Loggerhead Turtle
Loggerhead Turtle

Marine Turtles

Already listed as endangered around the globe, the turtle species that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico are further threatened by the oil spill. Of the seven remaining sea turtle species on Earth, five are present in the Gulf of Mexico. The most endangered of these species, the Kemp’s ridley turtle, nests along the beaches of the Gulf in the early summer, and the area immediately surrounding the damaged oil pipe was one of this turtle’s last remaining feeding grounds in the Gulf.

Dangers to sea turtles from spilled oil include contamination of the fish and other small animals they eat, as well as damage to underwater seaweed beds where they feed. When dispersants are used to drive floating oil to the bottom of the Gulf, these seabeds become contaminated.

Inhalation of toxic fumes from the BP oil spill when the turtles surface to breath can also prove deadly. All of the turtle species in the Gulf use the soft sand beaches in the region to build their nests. Over the centuries, human development of these areas has made nesting areas harder to find, and contamination by oil washing ashore will only lower the chances that some of these marine turtle species can survive in the Gulf of Mexico.

Least Tern
Least Tern
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret

Nesting and Migrating Birds

The timing of the Gulf oil spill corresponds to the migration period for many bird species traveling between North and South America in the late spring and early summer. Many migratory species use the Gulf region as a resting area on their long journeys, and they must deal with the contamination of the small islands, marshes and shoreline beaches they frequent. It is not known just how the toxic smoke caused by controlled burning of surface oil will affect the birds as they pass through it.

For nesting birds in the Gulf region, the contamination of the beaches and marshlands where they nest will lead to fewer nesting sites, and some birds, like the already threatened Least Tern and Reddish Egret, may not be able to survive in the region for much longer.

Blue Crabs
Blue Crabs

Blue Crabs

Louisiana is the main producer of Blue Crabs in all of the United States, and the Gulf oil spill will wreak untold devastation on the local population. All fishing and crabbing was stopped soon after the spill began, and countless fisherman – from single-boat self-employed fisherman to large-scale commercial crabbers – have been put out of commission for the foreseeable future.

Use of dispersants in the clean up efforts will cause a great deal of surface oil to be driven to the floor of the Gulf, where bottom feeders like the Blue Crab forage. Contamination of their food source will certainly have a tremendous negative impact on the ongoing survival of this and many other food species in the Gulf of Mexico.

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All Text Copyright The Author. © 2010, All Rights Reserved.


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  • natures47friend profile image


    8 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

    This is a great hub! In NZ we have a tanker, Rena, stuck on a reef by Tauranga. Many seabirds like penguins died from the oil leaking from her ripped holds. Rough weather hindered help and pumping the oil from the Rena. Well, now the govt have plans for fracking off the coasts. We do not want a 'gaslands' sequel but the govt is only into money. The govt that got back in have created a large debt and maybe this is a way out. I certainly did not vote them in!

  • Bard of Ely profile image

    Steve Andrews 

    9 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    This is a really excellent hub about a matter that has deeply saddened me and I have given it the thumbs up!

  • cosplay profile image


    10 years ago

    I heard a story on NPR that related the oil spill to recent mining disasters - in the case of a mine, there is a close knit community surrounding the mine and those who work there. In the case of an offshore oil rig, that isn't the case. Unfortunately, there is no "community" to rally around the families of the dead.

  • cosplay profile image


    10 years ago

    Such a sad story, well told. Perhaps we will stop and think before we toss anything anywhere.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    ok our Earth is supposed to look blue and green, right? Well......THERE'S NO BLUE!!! JUST GRAY MUCK ALL OVER THE PLACE. We don't live forever, so lets try and make it a good time. For ALL of us. And, why was that oil pipe down there anyways? They knew it would bust someday, didn't they? PEOPLE ARE WEIRD

  • BennyTheWriter profile image


    10 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

    Beautiful's heartbreaking to see what's happening to them because of human foolishness. Thanks for the heads-up, and for doing your part to spread an urgent message on behalf of these creatures.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    The costs of an oil spill are both quantitative and qualitative.

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from United States

    Celina and Alana - Thanks so much for your heartfelt words. It's encouraging to know that the younger generation in this world actually understands and cares about the importance of a healthy environment - not just for the animals, but for us humans, as well.

  • profile image

    Alana D. 

    10 years ago

    It is so sad i am only a 10 year old kid and im heartbroken that they didn't do anything sooner and theres not much hope left for our once beautiful oceans, animals, beaches, and our country. We need to stop this oil spill! I pray every night for it to stop! Almost 3 months of oil leaking into our oceans. R.I.P the 11 people that are not acknowledged much, and the animals. Soon the bottlenosed dolphin, bluefinned tuna, and much more species will be extinct. I loved your article. It means a lot that you care, some people are like "Well, it ain't affecting me! So I dont care." My sister is 6 and shes devestated as well. Lets hope and pray for the 11, animals, our beaches&oceans to be healed, and for this maddness to stop! Thank you for reading my comment,

    Alana Duggan

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    The problem with all of this is that people may say that this is terrible. That those poor animals are having to suffer and that somebody should do something about it. It's all well to say that SOMEBODY should fix this, but when will we, as individuals, stand up and make ourselves that somebody? We say that this should never have happened, that those oil companies, those greedy oil companies, should have prevented it and should not be drilling where it can so easily turn into a disaster as the one we are experiencing. And that is true but the power is not only with the C.E.Os of the large corporations that are corrupt, but also (and mostly) with the people. If we said no, NO we will NOT support you by buying your oil if you insist upon getting it the way you have been. What if every person stood up and said no? Without demand, supply slackens. Without the building blocks, the tower topples. If we continue to place our priorities in oil and in waste, then nothing will ever change. I am 14 years old. I am not yet a legal adult and I do not have the same influence as one. But I am strong. I have seen my world diminish around me and now I say enough. I want my children to have a world where there are still dolphin jumping through the air and turtles gliding through the sea. I want lions and tigers, I want parrots and monkey, I want butterflies and grasshoppers. And I assure you that neither I nor my children nor my children's children will have such wonders if we do not change, now. I am not going to wait around for someone to throw me a life preserver, for quite frankly I have lost hope that one will ever be cast. Change starts with me. I have become more eco-friendly, not only recycling and reusing but cutting back. I have also started a non-profit organization called H.O.P.E. (The Homo-sapien Organization for the Protection of Earth) and I want to change the world, for I can. And so can you.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    This sucks badly, BP is nothing more than a mere criminal hell even Shell Oil has proper safety equipment on their rigs, Also all those poor animals I rarely ever comment on animals but I am at a loss of words, I mean Humans like BP's CEO make us simple folk look like asses towards the ecosystem, my personal opinion they deserve worse punishment rather than being locked up and also those poor clean-up crew and rig crew that were injured If I were them I would sue BP till I couldn't anymore. My finals words is this if we want this to never happen again we need to bankrupt BP it doesn't matter if your British or American, or Italian you need to unite to bring BP down.

  • timelesshotrods profile image


    10 years ago

    Unfortunately I think it is too late for the Gulf of Mexico, in my opinion it will be a large dead sea in a few short years. The damage has only just begun, we will likely see severe deformities and/or no more breeding, meaning marine population levels will fall off the cliff. We likely can't even imagine what we will be seeing ina year or two.

    And remember, the Gulf is still bleeding. I hate the term "oil spill". It is not a spill, but a volcano of oil being forced out of the ground at 1000's of lbs of PSI. August is their new timeframe, but that is 2 more months away. If I was a betting man I would bet they will not have this capped by the end of August. The relief wells have to be precise, and there is a lot of pressure there. I don't believe we have been told everything that is going on also. There are many unconfirmed reports of leaking holes on the gulf floor miles away, and/or the cement lining in the well is destroyed, meaning a relief well kill may not work either. If the cement lining has not been destroyed yet, it still may not make it to August as the oil has a lot of dirt and sand in it, acting as a severe abrasive scraping off the lining. Once the lining is gone, oil will seep out of the rocks nearby, and will be nearly imnpossible to contain.

    I'm not trying to sound like a 'The sky is falling" moron, but nothing BP has done or said has proven to be correct, from the initial leaking estimates to the multiple tries of capping the well, stating they feel like it will be successful. Nothing was.

  • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

    Pamela Dapples 

    10 years ago from Just Arizona Now

    Thank you for a well-organized, well-written article. It is an upsetting subject and I'm not brave enough to write about it -- with all those emotions that come into it as the information is gathered. Thank you for putting in the time and effort.

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    I can hardly take it... these beautiful creatures suffering. It breaks my heart. The teens in Ohio are something special. Thanks for sharing that information most of all.

  • Daniel_Martinez profile image


    10 years ago

    That sucks i like turtles

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    I don't know if you heard, but there are two teenagers in Ohio that launched a national donation drive this past week to send Dawn dishwashing detergent to the Gulf Coast. They already have more than 3000 supporters across the country, and a trucking company lined up to take donations down to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Florida. The link for more information is under my name if anyone's interested.

  • Spirtit Bay profile image

    Spirtit Bay 

    10 years ago from Pass Christian MS

    I thought your article well written and thought provoking but wanted to point out that you neglected to mention seals, walruses, sea otters, and sea lions. I mena you and I know that those animals don't live anywhere near the Gulf, but BP mentioned them as sensitive biological resources in their Gulf of Mexico response Plan. And there the experts , right?

    What a joke.

  • mailxpress profile image

    Michelle Cesare 

    10 years ago from New York

    Hello Edweirdo,

    You put a lot of time and effort into this very interesting Hub. The crude oil spill will cause damage for years to come. I find it hard to believe that BP was unable to damage control it immediately. I feel for the dieing animals, the people who livelihoods are going to end and the continuous damage to the beaches too. Catastrophe is the word to be used here. Excellent Hub. I'm not against drilling but I do feel that this horrible experience will force companies to be able to learn how to damage control within hours instead of months. I personally feel BP is completely responsible for what has happened. Simply a sad situation.

  • samsons1 profile image


    10 years ago from Tennessee

    very good read Edweirdo. a tragic situation to add all the other problems facing our nation right now. It's as if 'someone' is trying to tell us something...

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from United States

    See this despicable tragedy from YOUR perspective:

    See a Google map that overlays an image of the Gulf oil spill over your hometown...

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from United States

    Sadly, not enough attention is paid to the 11 lives lost here in America, either.

    I heard a story on NPR that related the oil spill to recent mining disasters - in the case of a mine, there is a close knit community surrounding the mine and those who work there. In the case of an offshore oil rig, that isn't the case. Unfortunately, there is no "community" to rally around the families of the dead.

    Sadly, the wildlife of the Gulf are in a similar situation - they're "out there" in the Gulf where no one sees them, and so they, too, are easily ignored...

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    10 years ago from London, UK

    Sometimes the language is inadequate to be able to express what we all feel about this disaster. There are no words to describe it. I am sure they could have stop it more or less straightaway. Thank you for such a wonderful and comprehensive hub. Another thing I angry about it is that no newspaper in England -- as far as I know -- paid a full tribute to those men who died. Also did they every bother how the family is getting on without those men income? How they getting on as a whole? I doubt it. Hopefully I am wrong.


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