Oil Spills Proliferate – the impact on whales and dolphins
Oil rigs and freighters
Two of these have involved underwater drilling rigs (North West Australia and the Gulf of Mexico) and the other a coal freighter running aground on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Whilst the two Australian spills have now been controlled, their impacts have yet to be assessed and are likely to be felt for many years to come.
|A Chinese registered coal carrier ran aground |
on the Great Barrier Reef.
Gulf of Mexico
Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico oil leak continues unabated. This has the potential to be worse than the Exxon Valdez tanker spill and the ecological impact of that spill is still evident today, twenty years after it happened.
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Oil spills can cause multiple, subtle and long lasting impacts on the marine environment, and affect cetaceans both directly and indirectly. Direct impacts can be caused by ingesting or inhaling the oil or its vapours, resulting in sickness or death; indirect effects include loss of prey caused by damage to the ecosystem. There is good evidence to indicate that the Exxon Valdez oil spill resulted in the death of over a third of the Orcas in the local area.
Whales and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico
Several species of whale and dolphin are known to use the waters in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It is highly likely these animals will be impacted, although documenting these impacts may take years. At least 19 species of whales and dolphins have been documented in the Gulf of Mexico, including critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Also present are sperm whales, Bryde's whales, bottlenose dolphins, grampus (Risso's dolphins), and dwarf and pygmy sperm whales. There have also been rare sightings of orcas and Gervais' beaked whales.
WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, is calling for:
WDCS will be closely monitoring this latest spill to ensure that its impacts are fully evaluated and that any lessons that can be learnt are learnt.
Generally, WDCS encourages all governments and citizens to move away from their dependency on fossil fuels.
Courtesy of The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society