FALSE: OCEANS AND WILDLIFE HAVE BEEN DAMAGED BY OIL SPILLS

Written by on January 16, 2023

A twitter post claiming that oceans and wildlife have never been polluted, damaged or killed by oil spills is false.

“Thank God the oceans and wildlife have never been polluted, damaged, or killed by oil spills,” states the claim.

Immediately after an oil disaster, the effects on seabirds, fish as well as other marine animals are often visible. They can be coated in oil, whereas animals might die through poisoning or suffocation. The ones that live on or close to the surface such as otters and sea birds, as well as those that come to the surface to feed or breathe such as turtles, whales and dolphins are among the most affected.

When feathers and fur are drenched in oil, they can adversely affect the ability of animals to regulate their body temperatures. On the other hand, it can as well interfere with natural buoyancy and lead to the animals drowning. Birds in their nature of preening themselves, they are likely to ingest the oil and this can damage their gastrointestinal tract, as well as damaging their organs.

The Deepwater Horizon slick that happened in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico was the largest ever marine oil spill in the history of the United States. More than 134 million gallons of oil was spilled into the ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Over a decade after the spill, scientists have shown the impact is longer lasting than had been anticipated by many.

Source: NOAA

After the slick-in the summer, it was found that oil levels along the miles of the affected coastline were 100 times higher than background levels. However, eight years later, levels in the sediments in the surrounding marshland still were 10 times higher than prior to the incident.

According to research published on Science Direct in January 2020, even a year after the spill, droplets continued to sink to the seabed. This in turn affected sedimentation rates, which is a crucial food source and also habitat for some animals. Recovery for many deep-sea creatures living among the sediment surface is estimated to take decades.

During the Deepwater Horizon event, there were bottlenose dolphins that were exposed, and a study on them shows that the oil might have affected their immune system, and spanned generations, in turn making it harder for them to fight infection and diseases.

We looked into this claim stating that oceans and wildlife have never been polluted, damaged or killed by oil spills and found it to be false.

This fact-check was produced by Sky 106.1 FM with support from Code for Africa’s PesaCheck, International Fact-Checking Network, and African Fact Checking Alliance network.


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