Though it has been nearly four years since the disaster that was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Gulf of Mexico still has a long way to go before it can be considered as “baseline condition” – in the condition that it would have been in if the spill had never occurred. Recently, the National Wildlife Federation has issued a report that confirms this, fact, not only focusing on the effect that the spill has had on the surrounding wetlands, but also how it has affected marine life as well.
The study first focuses on coastal wetlands, which were included in the 1,110 miles of shoreline that were oiled after the incident. These wetlands provide food and refuge for many species of wildlife, making it critical to the delicate balance of the Gulf of Mexico’s food chain. The wetlands were heavily damaged by the initial introduction of oil into the environment, and the chemicals used in an effort to reverse the contamination only further intensify this damage. According to this study, the wetlands are still in poor condition, and it is predicted that, without large-scale restoration efforts being implemented, the wetlands are likely to continue diminishing rapidly, well into 2060.
There are a number of various wildlife species that are still suffering from the effects of the spill, as well. These include Bottlenose Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Shrimp, Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, Brown Pelicans, and Deep Sea Coral; One of the worst among these species being the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is considered one of the largest game fish in the world, fished commercially as a food source for humans. This study found that the reduction of juvenile Bluefin Tuna by nearly 20% in 2010 was likely caused by the species’ exposure to oil, and it is predicted that the number of juveniles produced will continue to decrease by 4% in future populations.
With such drastic reductions in both marine wildlife populations and surrounding ecosystems nearly four years after the incident, it is clear that the disaster that was the BP Oil Spill will be haunting us for generations to come.
Ciara is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.