On May 19th, a tragic event unfolded along the Santa Barbara coastline that serves as a serious reminder to the world – oil spills and wildlife don’t mix. Needless to say, oil spills’ impacts reach farther than just killing wildlife. They close beaches, put livelihoods on hold, minimize ocean recreation, and they simply scar the land, ocean and its inhabitants, impacting people who come to enjoy these special areas.
Friends of the Sea Otter knows all too well the deadly consequences oil spills have upon sea otters due to the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred just slightly more than a quarter decade ago in 1989. Sea otters die of hypothermia or ingesting the oil, which then gets into their internal organs and causes damage. These similar impacts happen to other animals.
The deadly toll in this recent oil spill includes marine birds, marine mammals, other marine vertebrates, and marine invertebrates. It is so disheartening to see the images flooding the news, social media, other media sites of oiled animals!
As of Thursday, June 4, 173 birds have been collected – 58 live, 115 dead – and 100 mammals – 42 live, 58 dead, and more than 14,000 gallons of oily water mixture has been collected.
There have been many things that have come up as to why this happened and why the initial response was inadequate. These are all important things to address. What is more important is the constant goal of preventing it from happening in the first place. One area of emphasis is the need to move away from oil exploration and development in sensitive habitats like this. Problems are always going to happen with these methods of extracting oil. We need to focus on alternative energy and put our foot down in saying enough is enough. We should have learned from the Gulf Oil Spill from five years ago. We had ample time to learn from that tragic event, and we haven’t. And, until we really say “No More!”, we will continue to get news reports about these tragic, yet preventable events. Let’s learn this time and not repeat historic mistakes like these.