Oil Spills and Their Effects on the Ocean

Oil can enter the ocean waters in a number of ways. Oil spills can be caused by an accidental leak or spill, and they can have a devastating effect on the ocean. Most of the oil that enters the ocean consists of untreated waste disposal, storm waters, and oil from industrial factories and buildings. While offshore drilling tends to be a term in everyone’s mind when they hear the word oil spill, the reality is that offshore drilling and spillage from ships only equals about 8 percent of the total oil spills. 20 percent of oil leakage comes from ship maintenance, and 13 percent comes from onshore pollutants. The April 24, 2010 oil spill caused by the sinking of the semi-submersible drilling rig the Deepwater Horizon, was named a “spill of national significance” due to the fact that up to 60,000 barrels of oil per day were leaking into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil Spill Damage

Oil that spills into the ocean will spread through the water, either remaining slick or breaking up. Oil slicks are what are usually shown in news footage and have a huge impact on the waters, causing damage to the ocean itself as well as endangering the lives of sea creatures and wildlife. Since oil spills poison the marine organic substrate, this can cause a disruption to the food chain that sea creatures depend on in order to reproduce.

Wildlife and fish can be put in immediate danger when they ingest or breathe in toxic fumes emitted from the oil, and large spills can result in mass mortality of ocean fish. On-shore oil spills can smother birds, penguins and other forms of wildlife, and rescue crews will work tirelessly after a spill in order to make sure that the birds and animals are cleaned off as soon as possible in order to save their lives. Once these precious creatures have been cleaned off and given a clean bill of health, they are released back into the wild. Rescue crews have proven to be very beneficial to wildlife during an oil spill disaster.

Long term effects caused by damage to the marine organic substrate can interrupt the food chain, and this has a profound effect on wildlife. With the food chain compromised, species can change or disappear entirely. There can also be a profound effect on local facilities, parks, beaches, and tourist attractions due to the fact that if these areas have been closed off temporarily or permanently due to an oil spill, they are not open for business which can contribute very negatively to the economy.

Prevention of Oil Spills

Preventing oil spills in the future will affect the economy in a positive way, as the quanitative and qualitative costs of an oil spill are extremely high. Luckily, both clean up and prevention of oil spills are starting to take high precedence, and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was created to enforce the proper cleanup and prevention of oil spills. There is still work to be done, but the world can remain hopeful knowing that the government is working hard to provide cleanup and immediate action in the event of an oil spill.

Make a Difference

There are many organizations and volunteer groups that are dedicated to prevention of oil spills, as well as work closely with clean up crews in the event of a spill. Individuals as well as industries must do their part in prevention, as oil pollution tends to be caused by carelessness that can be prevented. It is more important than ever for citizens to aid in the prevention of pollution and do their part in keeping the earth healthy and beautiful.

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