It is now more than forty days after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and they still have not stopped the leak. I can’t even remember all of the things they have tried or thought about trying…booms, setting it on fire, top hat, top kill, junk shot, and now the latest - the deployment of the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) Cap Containment System. What will they come up with next? It has been over 20 years since the Exxon Valdez oil spill and we have yet to figure out a way to contain and clean up the mess. Perhaps drilling should cease until someone can come up with a way to get rid of it when these things happen.
So exactly how does the oil affect these marine organisms? Well, swallowing the contaminated watr causes digestive and intestinal problems; the oil burns the eyes, nose and skin; hydrocarbons entering the lungs can damage the lungs and blood cells; the oil coats a birds feathers and prevents them from flying; and it causes hypothermia in birds and sea otters; and I probably forgot a few. Just imagine how oil would affect you if you swam in a pool of it as is the sea turtle at this website.
I have read many reports regarding the effects of the oil spill on the wildlife in the Gulf Coast area and the most common number I can find is that about 25-30 dead birds have been found covered in oil. I have also read that about 500 birds, 200 turtles and 30 mammals have been found dead along the Gulf coast, however, they have not linked these deaths directly to the oil spill. Many of these deaths were probably related to the oil spill and that these numbers are probably low because many of the dead organisms are likely to be eaten prior to washing up on shore. If that is the case, then whatever ate the dead, oil-affected organisms will probably also be affected. Not to mention the fish and shellfish that also live in these waters.
What do we do about the oil spill? I don’t know. First, maybe we should cease all off-shore drilling until this issue is solved so we don’t have another problem. There is a video out there about using hay to absorb the oil which could then be picked up by fishing nets or collected on shore with beach cleaning equipment. I think that is a great idea! Why don’t we try it? As for stopping the leak, I think we need to not be so concerned with collecting the oil so it is not wasted and actually seriously plug the leak…maybe use some epoxy – it worked on my sink. I guess these issues should have been discussed prior to allowing the drilling to take place in the Gulf. I don’t have the answers to these questions, however, I also don’t get paid thousands of dollars to come up with an answer.
This oil spill is very unfortunate and unless we do something very soon, many endangered species (sea turtles, manatees, birds) may become extinct and the only true natural reefs of the United States will definitely suffer if not vanish.
Connie Versteeg got involved with sea turtles as a graduate student at Nova Southeastern University on the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Project, then took a part-time position at the National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation whose goals are Education, Protection, and Awareness. Any funds raised by the foundation come from memberships, donations, and a program called Adopt-a-Nest and go towards protection and research. To find out more about our foundation, please visit The National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation.