Today marks the 5 year anniversary of the oil rig disaster that lead to largest oil spill in history. 134 million gallons of oil and pounds of gas were released into the Gulf of Mexico. The immediate impact of the spill on the wildlife was clear. Though its less visible today, the effects of the spill continue today.
A report was released by the national wildlife federation today, highlights some of the many ongoing issues identified during their continued monitoring of the situation in the Gulf.
The complex functioning of our ecosystem points to a broader impact, through breeding, migration, etc. that can only be identified through monitoring over time. The effects of substances used to break up the oil is still unknown, and the oil itself continues to line the floor of the gulf to this day.
What does the report say about our sea turtle friends? Like for most of the wildlife affected, the story continues to unfold.
Previous estimates of deaths of Kemp Ridley sea turtles, due to the spill, have proven far smaller than the reality. Current studies estimate that 27-65 thousand Kemp Ridleys died in 2010.
Prior to the spill, conservation efforts had nest numbers increasing by ~ 15% annually. After the spill, numbers dropped by 35%, and though they recovered the year after, they have fallen again. Because Kemp Ridley’s don’t reproduce till age 12, the impact of the spill is showing itself again.
One of the main sources of food for the Kemp Ridley are some of the more seriously impacted creatures in the gulf, namely blue crabs. Research indicates that a change in the turtles foraging habits was seen starting 2011.
Loggerhead sea turtles will also require time and research to see
Hatchling and juvenile Loggerhead sea turtles live in Sargassum, a large amount of which was burned in order to contain the oil during the spill. Studies continue on how the loss has impacted them.
Loggerhead turtle eggs are susceptible to the absorption of chemicals used to disperse oil, because of this a large number of nests were relocated during the clean up. Because hatchlings return to their hatching location to nest, this could lead to issues in the future.
Sea turtles are just few of the many that continue to feel the effects of the 2010 spill, bottle nose dolphins in the area is being investigated, Loons, Laughing Gulls, tuna, and so many more have and continue to see losses. it is clear that further monitoring is required to truly grasp the breadth of the impact of this disaster.