The Obama administration has issued a gag order on data over the recent spike of dead dolphins, including many stillborn infants, washing up on Mississippi and Alabama shorelines, and scientists say the restriction undermines the scientific process...I'll add this top-rated comment from the Reddit thread:
The dolphin die-off, labeled an “unusual mortality event (UME),” resulted in wildlife biologists being contracted by the National Marine Fisheries Service to record the recent spike in dolphin deaths by collecting tissue samples and specimens for the agency, but late last month were privately ordered to keep their results under wraps. Reuters has obtained a copy of the agency letter that states, in part: “Because of the seriousness of the legal case, no data or findings may be released, presented or discussed outside the UME investigative team without prior approval.”
Some scientists said they have received a personal rebuke from government officials about “speaking out of turn” to the media over attempts at determining the dolphins’ deaths. Additionally, these scientists say the collected specimens and samples are being turned over to the government for evaluation under a deal that omits independent scientists from the final results of lab tests.
Almost 200 dead bottlenose dolphin bodies have been found since mid-January through this week along shorelines of Gulf coast states, including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, Reuters notes. About half of the carcasses are newborns or stillborn infants. That number is around 14 times the average numbers recorded during the same time frame between 2002 and 2007 and has coincidentally occurred during the first calving season since the BP Deepwater Horizon debacle last year in the Gulf...
Officials with the NOAA state the confidentiality measures are an integral part of the current investigation over the BP oil spill. “We are treating the evidence, which are the dolphin samples, like a murder case,” said Dr. Erin Fougeres, a Fisheries Service marine biologist, Reuters notes. “The chain of custody is being closely watched. Every dolphin sample is considered evidence in the BP case now,” she added.
By labelling this data as evidence in criminal proceeding, the data is subject to chain of custody considerations and will remain in evidence as long as the criminal proceedings are ongoing and thereafter as long as the appeals process goes forward. This will be years and maybe even a decade or more. This would almost be tolerable if independent review by an independent team of scientists were allowed simultaneous access to the data but the government is not allowing this. Dual samples could have been selected or existing samples split for independent teams, in order to maintain the chain of custody and authenticity of samples for the criminal case. The way the government is handling this, and NOAAs past attempts to obfuscate and limit scientific research draw this whole effort into discredit. These are the kinds of issues where, if you are a liberal who voted for Obama, and I am, you watch the administration closely because this is where they will show how aligned they are with big business versus the public and the environment. I am not hopeful.