Crude Oil Spills: A worldwide Contaminant (Part 2)
Oil spills create permanent damages.
Despite the outward appearance of normality, people who know Price William Sound, the site of the Exxon Valdez disaster, know that things are not quite as they seem. Stan Stephens, who has run boat cruises in Prince William Sound since 1961, agrees that to the inexperienced observer the region is still a picture of pristine beauty, but says that wildlife populations in Prince William Sound have decreased markedly and that the area is still in the process of recovery.
Research conducted by biologists supports this: While bald eagles and pink and sockeye salmon have recovered or are in the process of doing so, populations of harbor seals, harlequin ducks, Pacific herring, marbled murrelets, sea otters and killer whales have not.
"The oil spill caused alterations to the food chain that forced harbor seals to seek out other food sources of inferior nutritional value when traditional food sources disappeared," says marine biologist Mike Castellini, who has done extensive work on the effects of the oil spill on harbor seals.
The collapse of the herring population in Prince William Sound following the oil spill forced seals to feed on nutrient-poor fish like cod and pollack, resulting in lower survival rates for young seals.
Another problem is the difficulty of restoring beaches. The Exxon clean-up ceased operations in 1992, but oil can still be found on some beaches in the oil-spill area.
In June of 1997 villagers in Chenega Bay returned to local beaches to remove oil entrenched behind boulders and beneath sand in a clean-up effort that cost $2 million. The Japan Times. March 17, 1999.
Developing countries that are significant crude oil producers don’t have money or equipment to prevent oil spills or clean up oil spills. Example: Nairobi - Kenya's ability to handle major oil spills at sea is limited, a UK expert has said. Mr. Kevin O'Connell, a training officer with Oil Spill Response Limited, said equipment at the Mombasa port, a high-risk area, could only handle common oil spills running into hundreds of tonnes. Africa News, August 5, 1999.
A new oil spill in northern Russia was reported by Greenpeace, which estimated another 13,000 tonnes of crude oil had spewed into the Arctic environment. When the snow melts in the spring, the whole area will be a disaster zone but the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations yesterday denied any knowledge of a new spill. The Age (Melbourne, Australia), November 8, 1994.Continued on the next page