The BP Gulf leak has already eclipsed the Exxon Valdez spill in amount of oil spilled. It is estimated that 18.65 million gallons of oil has poured out of the current leak, almost twice of the amount released by the Exxon Valdez.
We cannot currently measure precisely how bad the environmental impact of the leak is, as much oil is still out in the Gulf, but it is obvious that things will be getting worse. Oil is still spilling because, unlike the Valdez, the cause of the disaster is an active pipeline, not just a single ship. The BP spill’s impact will not be entirely known for months or even years, but it has “affected virtually all the same species that the Exxon Valdez oil spill affected”, and at an even greater, more devastating scale.
Even though the impact of the BP spill has only begun to be felt, I think it will eventually be considered to have a greater impact than the Exxon Valdez spill. The Louisiana Gulf area is particularly sensitive not only because of the number of species it hosts but because of the time of year. As it is breeding season, we face the loss of two generations as parent animals and fish lose their young and eggs, and nesting gorunds are destroyed. Two of the most tragic losses may be the brown pelican, a majestic bird which has only recently begun recovering from DDT poisoning, and bluefin tuna, a critically endangered fish which spawns in the Gulf of Mexico.
There is some hope, however. The media attention and the accessibility of the area may generate a quick response from a large number of workers, scientists and volunteers. Unlike the Valdez spill, which was not accessible by road, perhaps some of the environmental issues will be addressed more quickly and efficiently. Because this area is so vital to the fisheries and livelihood of the Gulf region, hopefully the damaged areas will be rehabilitated as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this does not make the immediate losses any less tragic.
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