An oil spill is any uncontrolled release of any type of oil by-products into the environment. Oil spills are environmental disasters that will affect the environment they are released into for a long time.
OIL AND WATER; JUNE 2010
AFFECTS ON OCEAN ANIMALS
When people hear ‘oil spill’ they often think of spills in the ocean, oil spills can also be on land as well. However, oil spills in the water are extremely devastating to the animals that live there. For marine animals that have fur or feathers, like birds or otters, oil spills reduce the insulation fur and feathers provide to the animals. Because these water repelling features are vital to the animals survival, these animals often die of hypothermia.
Animals like young sea turtles will get caught in oil and mistake it for food. Other animals such as birds will try to clean the oil off of them and accidentally swallow it. Both times the animals will be poisoned by the oil. Dolphins and whales can inhale oil, which messes with their lungs, immune system, and reproduction.
Other animals such as some fish, coral, and shellfish may not be affected as immediately and as directly as the other animals mentioned above, but they are still affected. The effects on adult fish can be enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment. Young fish and eggs are often killed by a spill. When animals do survive oil spills, they often become lethal or poisonous for humans to eat.
Humans are also affected by spills. Other than the obvious reason, fisheries, oceanic tourism is also badly affected by spills. Water supplies can also be damaged.
WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION, JACK COOK
WHERE OIL SPILLS COME FROM
Oil spills come from four different categories: natural seeps, petroleum extraction, petroleum transportation, and petroleum consumption. All categories except seeps are caused by humans. Most oil spills actually come from natural seeps, followed by extraction, transportation, and consumption.
Natural seeps occur all over the world, and in the places they occur, the oil seeps at a slow and constant rate. Because of this, organisms that live in areas near natural seeps have adapted to the chemicals. However, non-natural seeps occur in large amounts, anywhere in the world, so the animals are often not used to the chemicals, and it occurs in such a huge amount that it is much more devastating.
WHAT IS BEING DONE
One thing organizations are doing to help is creating databases of baseline conditions of the water chemistry. This way, if an oil spill occurs, we can know how the water has changed, when it is normal and how long it took to get back to normal. We also must establish guidelines for companies to try and prevent oil spills from occurring in the first place.
“Large Oil Spills.” United States Geological Survey, https://www.usgs.gov/mission-areas/water-resources/science/large-oil-spills?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects. Accessed 27 July 2020.
“How Does Oil Impact Marine Life?” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 3 November 2020. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/oilimpacts.html. Accessed 4 August 2020.
“Oil in the Ocean: A Complete Mix.” Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2 May 2011. https://www.whoi.edu/oil/main. Accessed 4 August 2020