March 24 marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster that contaminated Alaska’s Prince William Sound, killing more than 250,000 sea birds, along with thousands of otters, whales, and seals.
Although we no longer hear about it in the news, devastating environmental repercussions from this disaster are still being felt by local wildlife, who suffer from lowered reproduction rates, stunted growth, and contamination to the food chain. To date, Alaska’s $300 million herring industry still has not recovered while oil is being found on many of the beaches, and the people affected by this disaster still have not been compensated.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster was the largest environmental disaster of its time and limited clean-up technology only removed a small portion of the 11 million gallons that were spilled.
Three years ago, this infamous record was overtaken by the BP Deepwater Horizon spill off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, which spilled approximately 170 million gallons of oil, contaminating 1,500 miles of shoreline. After two decades and many “advances in technology,” BP was only successful in cleaning up 3 percent of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
Numerous birds, sea turtles, and other marine mammals that have been found dead or injured, and scientists are currently studying the long-term effects from the oil spill itself, along with the 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants used. Some of their findings confirm that half of the area’s dolphins are sick and dying and hundreds of sea turtles are found stranded on the beach, including the highly endangered Kemp’s sea turtle.
We cannot afford to continue along this path of destruction to our environment. Not only is it devastating to wildlife, we humans are also experiencing the ill effects of these toxic spills. We have seen that ocean wildlife have either become sick or have died from oil spill toxins, so naturally the same threat applies to us.
With plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean, the possibilities of disaster are far too great. It’s time to rethink our need to drill oil and find a better solution for our energy needs.