Friday, May 28, 2010

Oil Spills Proliferate the impact on whales and dolphins - Care2 News Network

Oil Spills Proliferate – the impact on whales and dolphins

whales/nov 2009/oilspill_oil
Three major oil spill incidents have occurred around the world in less than a year. A lot of people think that once the headlines have faded from memory and the clean up act is finished that that is the end of the story. But nothing could be further from the truth. The impacts can be felt for years to come and can have a devastating impact on marine life and eco-systems, including whales and dolphins.

Oil rigs and freighters
Two of these have involved underwater drilling rigs (North West Australia and the Gulf of Mexico) and the other a coal freighter running aground on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Whilst the two Australian spills have now been controlled, their impacts have yet to be assessed and are likely to be felt for many years to come.

A Chinese registered coal carrier ran aground
on the Great Barrier Reef.

Gulf of Mexico
Meanwhile, the Gulf of Mexico oil leak continues unabated. This has the potential to be worse than the Exxon Valdez tanker spill and the ecological impact of that spill is still evident today, twenty years after it happened.

Oil spills can cause multiple, subtle and long lasting impacts on the marine environment, and affect cetaceans both directly and indirectly. Direct impacts can be caused by ingesting or inhaling the oil or its vapours, resulting in sickness or death; indirect effects include loss of prey caused by damage to the ecosystem. There is good evidence to indicate that the Exxon Valdez oil spill resulted in the death of over a third of the Orcas in the local area.

Whales and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico
Several species of whale and dolphin are known to use the waters in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It is highly likely these animals will be impacted, although documenting these impacts may take years. At least 19 species of whales and dolphins have been documented in the Gulf of Mexico, including critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Also present are sperm whales, Bryde's whales, bottlenose dolphins, grampus (Risso's dolphins), and dwarf and pygmy sperm whales. There have also been rare sightings of orcas and Gervais' beaked whales.

WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, is calling for:

  • President Obama to pull back from encouraging further drilling in US waters
  • An international network of effective marine protected areas as cetacean refuges, including adequate buffer zones around them
  • The relevant companies and agencies to have comprehensive emergency plans and adequate funds in place to respond to emergencies

  • For very careful consideration to be given to the location of oil and gas production sites and that these should not be developed in areas known or anticipated to be of importance to cetaceans
  • The relevant companies and agencies to always conduct baseline evaluations prior to the development of sites
  • An independent world review of the effects of oil spills

WDCS will be closely monitoring this latest spill to ensure that its impacts are fully evaluated and that any lessons that can be learnt are learnt.

Generally, WDCS encourages all governments and citizens to move away from their dependency on fossil fuels.

Courtesy of The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society!/video/video.php?v=124876750863899&ref=mf

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