In this world many issues have been arousing, but there is no bigger issue the world could deal with right now than oil spills. Our planet, Earth, has large reserves of oil and gas trapped deep beneath its surface. Occasionally, these reserves make cracks and some of the oil or gas goes out. However, this is a part of nature and rarely causes any major damage. On the other hand, there are times when the same problem is caused because of human interference and it can cause a great deal of damage to marine ecosystems. In the last thirty years, the issue of oil spills and their effects has taken on much consequence. This is because when an oil spill occurs, it causes a multitude of problems for the environment and us.
Many examples have shown the damage oil spills have caused in our environment. As well as, many companies have shown that their way of managing their productivity can be damaged by the question: is it going to harm the environment? A company in Alaska was trying to continue their normal way of getting oil out of the ocean’s floor; however, they were stopped to answer important issues. “The company faces three daunting issues: Is there a way to drill here without hurting sea life? How can the company build a pipeline that can withstand the ice and shifting shoreline? And if there were a spill, where would the water currents carry the oil?” (Mufson).Many ecologists are still working to maintain order and peace in ocean ecosystems. One of the major oil drill companies is Shell Oil, Co. This company has been one of the major reasons why many activists have gone to the streets and protest many of the issues the company obscures and pretends there are not their concern. “The environmental activists made famous for chaining themselves to things are now trying a different approach: going after Shell with science. That’s where Greenpeace activist and marine biologist John Hocevar and the organization’s Arctic floating research hub, a former Russian Army fireship Greenpeace dubbed the Esperanza, came in” (Vega, Waterfield).
In general, oil spills can affect animals and plants in two ways: from the oil itself and from the response or cleanup operations. Understanding both types of impacts can help companies minimize overall impacts to ecological communities and help them to recover much more quickly. Spilled oil can harm living things because its chemical ingredients are poisonous. This can affect organisms both from internal exposure to oil through digestion or inhalation and from external exposure through skin and eye irritation. Oil can also overwhelm some small species of fish or invertebrates and coat feathers and fur, reducing birds’ and mammals’ ability to maintain their body temperatures.
Also, another species really affected and not concerned by the people are arthropods. Coastal wetlands are important to human well being and defenseless to oil spills. Research on biotic effects of oil has been focused on microbes, plants, and many invertebrates, neglecting terrestrial arthropods. Terrestrial Arthropods were the first animals to venture onto land and spread over the earth. Their body plan allowed them to diversify and adapt to every environment, including the air, inventing new ways to extract oxygen from air rather than water. Oil hugely affects terrestrial arthropods in coastal marshes and suggests future research topics. Terrestrial arthropods play important ecological roles in coastal marshes, affecting primary production and decomposition and providing food to terrestrial and marine vertebrates. “The work to date suggests that terrestrial arthropods might be more sensitive to oil exposure than are plants” (Pennings, McCall, Hooper-Bui, 791).
Moreover, there are many spills that cause different harm. The type of oil spilled matters because different types of oil perform contrariwise in the environment, and different types of oil affect animals and birds differently. However, it’s not so easy to say which kind is worst. First, it should be distinguished between “light” and “heavy” oils. Fuel oils, such as gasoline and diesel fuel, are very “light” oils. Light oils are very unstable, meaning that they evaporate relatively quickly, so they usually don’t remain for long in the water or sea environment; this is typically no longer than a few days. If they spread out on the water, as they do when they are accidentally spilled, they will evaporate relatively quickly. However, while they are present, light oils present two significant hazards. First, some can ignite or explode. Second, many light oils, such as gasoline and diesel, are also considered to be toxic. They can kill animals or plants that they touch, and they also are dangerous to humans who breathe their fumes or get them on their skin.
Oil destroys the protecting ability of fur-bearing mammals, such as sea otters, and the water repellency of a bird’s feathers, therefore exposing these creatures to the harsh elements. Without the ability to prevent water and separate from the cold water, birds and mammals will die from hypothermia. Many birds and animals also ingest oil when they try to clean themselves, which can poison them. Fish and shellfish may not be exposed immediately, but can come into contact with oil if it is mixed into the water column. When exposed to oil, adult fish may experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment. Oil also adversely affects eggs and larval survival.
On land, oil spills are usually localized and so their impact can be eliminated moderately easily. In contrast, marine oil spills may result in oil pollution over large areas and present serious environmental hazards. The primary source of accidental oil input into seas is associated with oil transportation by tankers and pipelines (about 70%), whereas the contribution of offshore drilling and production activities is minimal (less than 1%). Large and catastrophic spills releasing more than 30,000 tons of oil are relatively rare events and their occurrence in recent decades has decreased clearly. Yet, this incidents have the potential to cause the most serious ecological risk (primarily for sea birds and mammals) and result in long-term environmental disturbances (mainly in coastal zones) and economic impact on coastal activities (especially on fisheries and mariculture).
Public concern over marine oil spills has been clearly augmented since the 1967 Torrey Canyon supertanker accident off the UK coast, when 100,000 tonnes of spilled oil caused heavy pollution of the French and British shores with serious ecological and fisheries consequences. More recently, the highly publicized 1989 spill of the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, Alaska caused unprecedented damage to the fragile Arctic system. Since then, impressive technical, political, and legal experience in managing the problem has been gained in many countries and at the international level, mainly through a number of Agreements initiated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). As a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the U.S. passed legislation requiring all newly built tankers to have a double exterior.