400+ million gallons spill into oceans every year…
Everyone has seen the devastating pictures of sea birds drowned in oil, the black ocean waters and the thick, sludge covered beaches.
The effects on marine organisms can be devastating; as the oil floats on top of the water sea birds and marine mammals, such as otters, are most effected. The oil covers the birds bodies, coating the feathers thus preventing flight and destroying their natural waterproofing – this means the birds are left with no form of insulation or ability to escape from the waters, so are vulnerable to hypothermia. The same goes for otters and seals, their isulation is affected by the oil and they cannot keep themsleves warm. Dolphins and whales are badly effected when they come to the surface and oil gets into their blowholes, this can block their resporitory systems and make it hard to breathe.
As well as affecting animals at the surface, some of the oil can sink down into the ocean and contaminate the water which has a toxic effect on fish and fish larvae as they swallow the oil droplets in the water. This can in the long run cause mutations, physiological problems and increased mortality.
In the sediment and on beaches the oil can get into shell fish, for example mussels and it has been shown that the hydrocarbons are passed up the food chain from shellfish to amphipods (small shrimp-like creatures) to fish and then eventually to us!
The destruction of oil spills isn’t just short term (before the oil is cleaned up); even years afterwards, the marine environment is still being effected. For example the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, though the oceans appear clean and healthy again, the oil is still in the sea – sunk down into the deepwater and sediment and we do not yet know what impact this could have on marine life.
Check out this video about the oil spill 5 years on:
So the question is – what can we do to help prevent oil causing harm to the oceans?
When you think of oil spilling into the oceans, you generally just think of the large catastrophic spills that happen due to anomalies, however lots of oil gets into the ocean due to the use of automobiles and industrial waste from production. The oil drippings from machines on land accumulate and run into the water systems and then into the oceans. And whilst it is hard to prevent oil spills from occurring, there are things we can do to help reduce the chance of more spills:
- Reduce your fossil fuel consumption – use less electricity and reduce car usage
- Install your own renewable energy source – wind turbines and solar panels can be installed so that you can generate your homes own green energy
- Support green energy instead of fossil fuels – there are many organisations that are fighting for the government to reduce oil stations and increase renewables. Try joining one of these and volunteer or donate small contributions or sign petitions for the government to help try and make a change. Here are a few useful sites for this
- Renewable Energy Association http://www.r-e-a.net/
- RenewableUK http://www.renewableuk.com/
- Contribute to organisations that help to clean up oil spills – you can donate money to these organisations to help speed up the clean up of the oil after spills and help save the marine life.
So lets help make a change to prevent more damage to our oceans and the precious marine life!
CNN, (2016). Revisit the BP oil spill, 5 years later – CNN Video. [online] Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/videos/us/2015/04/10/bp-gulf-oil-spill-five-year-anniversary-orig.cnn/video/playlists/disastrous-oil-spills/ [Accessed 16 Feb. 2016].
Kingston, P. (2002). Long-term Environmental Impact of Oil Spills. Spill Science & Technology Bulletin, 7(1-2), pp.53-61.
Neaq.org, (2016). Oil Spill – Effects on Wildlife and Habitats. [online] Available at: http://www.neaq.org/conservation_and_research/oil_spill/effects_on_wildlife_and_habitats.php [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].
Response.restoration.noaa.gov, (2016). How Oil Harms Animals and Plants in Marine Environments | response.restoration.noaa.gov. [online] Available at: http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/oil-and-chemical-spills/oil-spills/how-oil-harms-animals-and-plants-marine-environments.html [Accessed 16 Feb. 2016].
West, L. (2016). 5 Ways Oil Spills Hurt the Environment. [online] About.com News & Issues. Available at: http://environment.about.com/od/petroleum/a/oil_spills_and_environment.htm [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].