The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico turned one year old last week – but this was a birthday that no one celebrated. In addition to human lives, the spill has devastated ocean life: thousands of dead seabirds, stranded turtles, dead oyster beds, mysteriously disappearing dolphins, and plummeting crab catches have been observed.
A year after the catastrophe, more than a million barrels of oil, out of about five million spilled in April 2010, are still unaccounted for. Where is this oil now? It´s anyone´s guess, but evidence from the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska shows that it may never go away. 20 years after the spill, tar balls are still washing up ashore.
Scientists are unsure of the lasting impacts of the spill. Nor do they know the effects of the millions of litres of chemical dispersants released into the ocean during the clean-up effort. It will take much more than a year to determine the spill´s impacts on food webs and sensitive wetland ecosystems.
Lost lives and livelihoods, immeasurable damage to marine animals and their habitats, and unpredictable consequences…can humans and ocean ecosystems afford risky and unsafe oil exploration? We think not. But ambitious plans to drill for more oil, including new proposals in the Mediterranean, persist. To prevent future catastrophes from occurring, Oceana is demanding stronger regulations and safeguards for resource extraction, and is working towards healthier, more resilient ocean ecosystems by encouraging the implementation of marine protected areas.