Minnesota loons could benefit from an $18.7 billion legal settlement over the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a Department of Natural Resources official said Wednesday.
Minnesota could receive up to $25 million over the next 15 years from the settlement between oil company BP and the federal government, Carrol Henderson, the department's nongame wildlife supervisor, told MPR News.
Scientists have conducted a large amount of research documenting the effects of the April 2010 oil spill on wildlife, and the settlement might not have been reached without that research, Henderson said.
"Loons and pelicans were actually in the gulf in April when the oil spill first occurred," he said. "My recollection is that there was just shy of 200 loons that were found dead in the oil."
Henderson said that number may only be a fraction of the loons that were affected by the oil spill. Many that died were never recovered.
Minnesota and Wisconsin likely will be the only non-coastal states to receive settlement money from the spill primarily because of the loon concentration. Minnesota is home to 12,000 loons.
Many loons were contaminated in the oil spill but survived. But those birds have passed health problems on through their eggs. There is some evidence that white pelicans also were affected by the oil spill but the evidence is not as clear.
Of the 142 dead loons and broken or abandoned eggs tested by DNR researchers, 36 were contaminated with carcinogens from petroleum. Because loons have such a long reproduction life, researchers say they won't be able to see the affects until young loons reproduce.