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The Impact of Oil Spills in The Ocean

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Oil spills seemingly happen quite often in large quantities I’ve often wondered what the cause is for these happening as well as the real effects of these massive spills. When the oil is spilled in the ocean it has happened in massive amounts and small amounts but in the end, it is never good the for the life of the ocean. Some of the biggest spills were even on purpose so determining the damages these caused is important and understanding what they can do to ecosystems in the ocean as well as how much they can harm ecosystems on the land as well. This will also lead to finding out the repercussions these parties involved with the spills were given. Starting from the top looking at the biggest spill in 1991.

In the Persian Gulf War Saddam Hussein used and oil to stop an amphibious invasion in the Kuwait sea from U.S. Marines and other western nations. “Iraqi forces released hundreds of millions of gallons of oil from Kuwait’s Sea Island terminal into the northern Persian Gulf before the end of hostilities” (Rafferty). It was estimated to be somewhere to 380 million and 520 million gallons that were released into the gulf by the Iraqis. The effects of the spill resulted in thousands of marine lives being destroyed and the coastline being uninhabitable. “Marine sediments are home to many sea creatures which have greatly suffered from the oil spills in the Persian Gulf. The effect oil spill will stay in the coastal and subsurface, and deep sediments for several years and persist in coastal sediments for several decades and have long-term effects on aquatic ecosystems” (Bejarano, Adriana C., and Jacqueline Michel 5). So, life in the gulf was essentially destroyed in the first dumping of oil and now the life will take decades to be able to return because of how it sunk into the sediment. As well as spreading from the gulf into the open ocean causing damage to other marine life and ecosystems. Iraq faced massive sanctions from the U.S. for the massive pollution they caused.

The next Oil spill was the largest accidental spill which is far more well-known because it was more recent than the Iraqi spill. The BP oil spill occurred on April 20th, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded killing 11 workers. This set off a chain reaction which caused the oil to spill out from the oil rig. “4 million barrels of oil flowed from the damaged Macondo well over an 87-day period, before it was finally capped on July 15, 2010” (EPA). This spill was known by almost everyone since the media covered it so much. BP was the center of attention for a long time throughout the process of the spill and the cleanup after. Many people were involved in the cleanup trying to save the marine wildlife. Thousands of birds and fish were killed in the result of the spill. Ecosystems were heavily damaged because of this and to this day the effects are impacting wildlife. BP was held accountable for the damages and faced fines for 5.5 billion dollars and 8.8 billion dollars. As well BP participated in the cleanup. There were many methods to the cleanup that involved manual labor such as just getting rid of the oil by hand. Other methods involved burning the oil off the surface of the water though creating more pollution into the atmosphere. Tar and oil had reached multiple other states such as Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida all had polluted shorelines. Another way that they got rid of the oil was through the use of dispersants that allowed bacteria to easily consume the oil for an easier cleanup. Tourism and the economy of these affected states fell because of this spill causing unemployment and many other negative impacts on land. Beaches everywhere were covered in the black oil and tar. It may have been the biggest spill in the Gulf, but it wasn’t the first

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In 1979 Mexico’s Ixtoc 1 oil drilling rig exploded when oil and gas couldn’t recirculate in the pipe. Because of the uncertainty of how much exact oil came out of BPs oil spill Ixtocs could actually be the second biggest. “Ixtoc spilled out 140 million gallons of crude oil into the Bay of Campeche from June to March 1980. For nearly ten months, the well-poured oil into the Gulf at a rate initially estimated to be 30,000 barrels per day.” (Ixtoc). With so much time passing before the well-being capped, it is clear that the amount of damage to the ecosystems and wildlife were massive. Oil was able to seep into sediment and remained for many years. The Gulf of Mexico did not get much of a break when it came to oil spills. The economy of the towns along the Gulf was heavily impacted as well. Many residents said that the amount of fish they can catch is never and will never be the same after the spills. Fisherman lost their jobs being unable to fish since they had either died or left the gulf being unable to survive with so much oil being present in the water. In total it took 9 months for the cleanup to be deemed done.

In the most recent oil spills off the coast of Louisianan, an oil well that was uncapped has been spilling out about 700 gallons of oil a year since 2004. It is apparently very unknown except in Louisiana that this has been happening. “On average, 330,000 gallons of crude are spilled each year in Louisiana from offshore platforms and onshore oil tanks, according to a state agency that monitors them” (Fears). This kind of negligence is what is destroying the oceans marine life. Taylor Energy is the owner of the platform and claims to have no idea about the spill and denied its existence. It is becoming clear that marine life in the Gulf. is headed in a bad direction with so much oil spilling out into it each year and spills becoming more frequent and common they are not being picked up by the media as often.

With so much of our oceans being polluted by oil stronger regulations are needed. No matter the amount of oil being spilled it is important that people work hard that it doesn’t happen. With how much damage the oil can cause to the marine wildlife. This is something that not only effects fish, but it effects the livelihoods of citizens around the world. Jobs and lives can be lost because of the negligence shown by corporations not protecting their oil rigs properly. Those responsible for spills need to be held accountable every time they spill for how much damage they can cause to the world from their mistakes.

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The Impact of Oil Spills in The Ocean. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
“The Impact of Oil Spills in The Ocean.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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The Impact of Oil Spills in The Ocean [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from:
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