The Prestige Oil Spill and Catastrophical Impact in Many Fields, from Environment to Economy

Published: 2021-09-29 10:10:08
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The Prestige Oil Spill
As far as humans today have developed technology, we still have moments of total and utter failure. Moments where something unplanned and unpredicted occurs and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Chemical disasters – nuclear explosions, oil spills, and mine explosions – have enormous effects on the world around us. They affect us economically, environmentally, socially, politically, nationally, and internationally. The Prestige Oil spill is a prime example of a chemical disaster that had prominent economic and environmental effects. It perpetually polluted the Atlantic coast off Cape Finisterre with fuel oil – which is much stickier and more dangerous to humans than crude oil, and had crushing impacts on the Spanish economy.
In November 2002 the Prestige Oil Tanker was coming into port on Spain’s northern coast when it unexpectedly split in half and spilled 50,000 tonnes of fuel oil into the Atlantic Ocean. The ship’s fragility and twenty-six year old state was what ultimately lead to its collapse, although criminal responsibility could not be decided, and the ship had already encountered a harsh storm, which punctured one oil tank upon the ship, before its arrival at the port. The ship remained in the sea for a total of six days because it was near impossible to remove from the water without leaking more oil into the sea or rupturing the ship entirely. Ultimately, the ship sunk at the end of the six days.Of all the ways the Prestige Oil spill affected the world, the worst was its environmental impact. Between harming sea life and disrupting ecosystems, the leak of 500,000 tons of oil into the ocean had an impact that will not soon be forgotten. When oil is spilled into the ocean, it has effects similar to when one mixes cooking oil and water. Oil remains on the surface, and water remains below. Aquatic life in the ocean have a very slim chance of surviving through these conditions because the oil blocks out their basic needs for living. “Oil on ocean surfaces is harmful to many forms of aquatic life because it prevents sufficient amounts of sunlight from penetrating the surface, and it also reduces the level of dissolved oxygen.” In addition to harming sea creatures, the spill had a tremendous impact on seabirds in the area. These birds feed off fish and other sea animals, and when these birds attempt to get their next meal, they return covered in dark oil that coats their feathers and is incredibly difficult to remove without human cleaners. The spill was also very damaging to the fragile ecosystems along Northern Spanish shore. It destroys them, obviously, because these organisms can survive in salt water alone, not a combination of fuel oil and water. According to one article, “[…]cowpie-size globs began washing up on the shores of southwestern France, closing the area’s famed oyster beds and glamorous tourist beaches.” Overall, the impacts of the Prestige Oil spill on the environment was only comparable to its effects on Spain’s economy.
The Northern Spanish coast and the area around it was important to Spain’s economy for two main reasons. Firstly, it provided its inhabitants with the ability to fish for a living, and the majority of citizens on the coast earned a living that way. Due to the oil spill, the fishing industry in that area was perpetually ruined, putting thousands of fisherman in economic turmoil. “Fishermen […] ,specialized in shellfish recollection, were expecting to make their living for Christmas season, when the high demand of seafood makes the price higher.” The depletion in the coastline economy was a blunder to Spain’s economy as well as to those that purchased the seafood from these fisherman. Secondly, the coastline was, as it is in most countries, a tourist attraction and a great source of income for the tourist industry. The pollution of the water put a halt on tourist surfing and beach-going along the Bay of Biscay which in turn affected any citizen whose earning depended on the tourist season calendar. The Prestige Oil Spill’s effects on the environment were deadly, and its effects on the economy were crushing.
Although chemical disasters such as the Prestige Oil Spill are horrifying and a true tragedy, the most important thing through all of this is that we learn from the mistakes we, and others, make. When a chemical disaster occurs, there is nothing anyone can do to fix what has happened. The best we can do is improve our future plans and prepare ourselves to prevent other chemical disasters from happening. Whether it is a nuclear disaster like Chernobyl, or the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, or even and oil spill like this one, there should always be something to take away from it. How to better protect the environment or how to prevent an oil spill in the first place. It should reveal necessities for reform, like having higher vessel standards, or a plan to deal with a disaster instead of blindly throwing around ideas. No matter what, a chemical disaster leaves a message, a memory, and a mark on society and our world.

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