Effects of spills in the Ocean
In addition to the scenic degradation of oil-fouled coastlines and the economic losses borne by fishing, tourist and other industries dependent on the health of coastal waters, a major effect of oil spills is the mass killing of wildlife. Petroleum dissolves the protective waxes and oils the feathers of the waterfowl, and oil-coated birds die, primarily from freezing. Fur-bearing ocean mammals such as otter suffer the same fate. Clams, oysters, and crustaceans ingest oil-impregnated shellfish beds must therefore be closed for a number of years following an oil spill. Where a spill occurs in a confined area, in regions where fish spawn, or on fish-migration routes, major fish kills will occur and, in some instances fisheries will be wiped out.
The long terms effect of oil spill is equally devastating. The soluble fraction of the spilled oil may spread over vast areas, and toxic components may create chronic ecological damage, either by inhibiting reproduction or by causing genetic changes. A study of oil spills effects in Caribbean found that coral organism were severely hurt and coastal environments such as mangrove thickets were wipe out with the creatures that inhabited them. A study of the Brittany coastlines in the years following the Amoco Cadiz spill found massive death rates for such bottom-dwelling species as sea urchins, the practical elimination of other species, and the overall reduction of animal populations. Although oil tainted environments probably recover eventually, not all species may return to their pre spill status.