“Cleaned” beaches still unsafe for Gulf wildlife

Oil may not be washing upon the shores of the Gulf in vast slicks, but that doesn’t mean it’s disappeared. Here, Defenders’ own Tim Male holds solid proof in his hands that oil remains a part of Louisiana beaches used by people and wildlife alike.

As tar balls such as these continue to float in from the ocean, they’re still a threat to imperiled Gulf species like Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and brown pelicans that depend on a healthy marine ecosystem to survive. For example, if sea turtles ingest even small amounts of oil from the water or their food, over time, it can accumulate in their bodies and harm or kill them.

Tim’s “big ol’ patty of tar” is a dark reminder that the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is far from over – and efforts to restore and rehabilitate the Gulf of Mexico have only just begun. Click here to see what you can do to help wildlife that continues to be impacted by oil in Gulf waters, and prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.

4 Responses to ““Cleaned” beaches still unsafe for Gulf wildlife”

  1. Caitlin Leutwiler

    Good question Abbi – here’s an answer from our resident offshore drilling expert, Richard Charter:

    “It is true that some specific areas of the ocean have slow natural seeps of tar oozing from the ocean floor. Some of the marine life in these areas has generally adapted over eons of time to low levels of pollution, with sensitive species no longer present, and species more tolerant of oil pollution continuing to colonize near these areas. The resulting thin films of surface oil “sheen” from natural seeps, however, are not the same in terms of impacts on animals, fish, and birds as the heavy lenses and “tarmats” and “tarballs” that accompany major releases of oil from an oil rig blowout or a tanker or barge spill. Heavier oil deposits gum up the feathers of birds and the fur of some marine mammals, poisoning the animal as it tries to clean itself and ingests the oil, or preventing the animal from being able to insulate itself from the ocean waters, so it dies of hypothermia.”

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