There are various incidents of oil spills everyday, however, an oil spill in lesser amounts does not cause lethal harm. The problems arise when there are incidents on a larger proportion, that lead to spilling of millions of tons of oil into the oceans, rivers, and bays.
None can forget the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred in Alaska, on March 24, 1989, which is one of the most disastrous environmental damage caused by humans. The Exxon Valdez spilling lead to the release of nearly 40 million liters of oil into the sea! No doubt, the worst affected victims of the oil spill were the marine animals that thrived there.
Oil spills that occur near a coastline cause more harm than the oil spills that occur into the open sea as marine life habitat is more dense in the areas near the coastline than between the ocean. The spill can occur due to reasons, like careless handling of the oil pipelines spread on the seabed, through which the oil is transported to various countries.
Also, any sort of accidental or natural disaster leading to damage of the oil storing tankers, barges, pipelines, refineries, etc., can cause the disaster. The oil spill effects on the marine life is decided by the type of oil spilled, location, and the breeding season of the habitat in that area.
The main problem with oil is that, once it spills, it spreads far and wide in the ocean, thereby increasing damage. When marine animals consume the oil spilled in the water, the oil gets into their body, and many die due to suffocation and poisonous effects.
Effects on Marine life
Depending on the type of oil, it can stick to the body of the fish and marine animals, forming a thick layer. Here are a few pointers which discuss the same into detail:
- Damage to the feathers of birds, destroying their beneficial properties.
- Fur seals get affected by oil spills, as the oil sticks to their fur. Whales and dolphins remain safe from any external affects, as their slippery body does not allow the oil to stick.
- Drowning of marine animals if the oil sticks on the flipper is observed.
- Ulcers and other internal problems in the body, leading to diseases and death.
- Loss of appetite and weight loss problems in birds, wildlife, and marine life.
- Problems of the digestive system, leading to fragile body.
- A sense of alienation among the community members, as the smelling ability of the seals and other marine animals is reduced, which makes them feel lost as they are unable to detect their fellow beings.
- Reduces the bird's ability to fly, as the feathers get entangled in a dense mass of thick layers of oil.
Oil Spill Effects on the Environment
Oil spill effects on the environment are as follows:
- Damages the red blood cells and hinders the smooth blood circulation in animals.
- Liver failure in marine mammals.
- Damage to fish larvae and young fish.
- Poisoning of young ones of the marine animals, as they consume mother's milk.
- Destruction of coral reefs, seagrass, and mangrove habitat, that are the major sources of ecological balance in the oceans.
- Respiratory problems and skin irritation leading to aggressive or dull behavior of the animals.
It is a fact that oil is one of the precious commodities and driving force of the global economy, but it is equally harmful for the marine animals and wildlife, in case they come in contact with it.
The oil transportation methods and the safety measures employed while doing so must be strengthened, in order to safeguard the precious marine life. While we can't thrive without oil, we must be equally responsible to maintain the ecological balance. The world community must come together to combat these incidents and provide safety to the wildlife.