Saturday, 29 January 2011

Oil spills - Philippines, Indian Ocean and Lebanon

Oil is harmful to the environment every step of the way. It leaks from pipelines, spills from ships, creates smog in our cities, and is heating up our planet. Marine ecosystems already stressed by over fishing and destructive fishing practices, toxic pollution and climate change are now taking big hits from recent large oil spills.
A Filipino fisherman stands ankle deep in oil washed up on the beaches near his home.
Italso has to be said that while these recent dramatic spills are makingthe headlines, oil spills actually occur every day.  Every yearmillions of gallons of oil enters the ocean from routine ship and carmaintenance, off shore oil drilling operations and ship spills.
Effects of an oil spill
Whilethe size of a spill is obviously important, the amount of damage donecan depend even more on other factors like the type of oil spilled andthe location of the spill - as well as temperature, wind and weather.
Oilcan have a smothering effect on marine life, fouling feathers and fur.It is a toxic poison that birds and mammals often ingest while tryingto clean themselves. Fish absorb it through direct contact and throughtheir gills.  The fumes and contact with oil can also cause nauseaand health problems for people in affected areas.
Even whenthe oil does not kill, it can have more subtle and long lastingnegative effects.  For example, it can damage fish eggs, larva andyoung - wiping out generations.  It also can bio-accumulate upthrough the food chain as predators (including humans) eat numbers offish (or other wildlife) that have sub-lethal amounts of oil stored intheir bodies. 
More on the effects of oils spills from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.