Thursday, May 6, 2010

Devistating Consequences of the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on April 22, 2010 due to an explosion caused by the collapse of a drilling platform 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi has released thousands gallons of oil and continues to spill approximately 42,000 gallons of oil per day coming from a well nearly a mile deep. The U.S. Coast Guard has been using robot subs to try to stop the spill. The oil spill has spread approximately 1800 square feet and has decimated the marine ecosystem in the Gulf Coast possibly making this one of the biggest oil spill disasters in history.

As of May 3, 2010, scientists predict that the oil may continue to gush for another week or even longer. The oil is currently 20-30 miles offshore. Not only has the massive oil spill hurt the fishing industry and poses a tremendous threat to tourism, but thousands of marine animals, including sea turtles, many of which are endangered, are washing ashore. More than 400 species of wildlife are threatened by the spill, including birds, sea turtles, marine mammals, fish, oysters and other creatures. The animals threatened most by the spill are bluefin tuna, sea turtles, brown pelicans, shrimp and sharks. Bluefin tuna, which are currently in the middle of their spawning season, and some species of sea turtles and sharks are extremely endangered and were just discussed in detail at the most recent CITES meeting regarding the protection of endangered species (which did not end positively for marine animals).

Other animals besides marine animals are being affected because of the oil spill. The Gulf Coast is home to a vast variety of birds. According to Ocean Conservancy, one of the biggest disasters that have occurred because of the oil spills is the effect the spill has had on birds. As of April 30, 2010, the American Bird Conservancy released a list of bird sites most immediately threatened by the ongoing oil spill. The sites previously had been designated Globally Important Bird Areas by the organization, and they are directly in the path of the advancing oil slick. Due to the migratory habits of the birds, birds will be affected as far north as Canada and Alaska and as far south as South America. Several birds affected, injured and killed as a result of the oil spill are threatened, endangered and on the U.S. Watchlist of Birds of Conservation Concern, which can be found

Marine biologists and volunteers are finding birds on the shores covered with oil and are quickly trying to clean them and provide them with much needed medical attention. Spring is the worst time this catastrophe could have happened due in part to the face that certain songbirds are going through their peak migratory season and are in the Gulf Coast area and this is also the time that many other species of birds are nesting and laying eggs. Oil seeps into birds' feathers and impairs body insulation, exposing them to cold and making it difficult for them to move. They also wind up ingesting oil, which tears up their digestive tracks.

Manatees also face extreme risk. They are already listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and are also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Five hundred manatees were killed over this past winter due to incredibly low temperatures. At this time of year, manatees are widely spread thought the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Manatees are also vegetarians, and seagrass beds and other vegetation can be extremely damaged by oil which would cause significant injury or death to the manatees that feed on this vegetation. For more information on Manatees, please visit Save the Manatee Club at

One of the most serious consequences of the oil spill is the impact it has had on sea turtles, which are coming close to shore this time of year to lay their eggs onshore. As of May 3, 2010, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi have already collected 20 dead sea turtles just in the past two or three days. The necropsies of the sea turtles have began May 3, 2010. The world's most endangered sea turtle, the Kemp's Ridley, only nests in the western Gulf. One of their major feeding grounds is in the area of the oil spill, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This is more than likely only the beginning of the devastation to the environment and thousands of species as a result of the oil spill. The complexity of the Gulf Coastline, with all of its bays, inlets, marshes, estuaries and creeks, will make the cleanup extremely difficult. Scientists say that the full extent of the damage to marine animals and wildlife caused by the spill won’t be realized until the oil washes ashore.

The problem now arising is where to house the marine animals and wildlife that were injured as a result of the oil spill. Obviously, scientists and veterinarians need to be on hand to ensure the animals are treated for medical conditions and are properly recovering. The biggest obstacles facing housing the recovering animals is finding facilities equipped and of sufficient size to accommodate the animals and how housing and recovery process will be funded.

On May 3, 2010, BP has publically stated that they will pay for the cost of the cleanup (which, of course, they should assume full responsibility); however, the taxpayers are still going to have to assist in funding the cleanup and the aid to the animals. As of May 2, 2010, three states (including Florida) have requested thousands of National Guard troops to assist with the cleanup. This disaster has obviously illustrated why drilling should not be allowed in the Gulf, or anywhere else close to shorelines among so many species.

Hopefully, this will be a lesson to politicians that oil drilling in our oceans isn’t worth the cost to the environment or the cost to taxpayers.

For up-to-date blogs on the oil spill disaster and for more detailed information, please visit the Greenpeace website at