Exxon Valdez pollution effects

The oil spread about 1,300 miles during the Exxon Valdez incident. Two hundred miles of coastline were profoundly damaged by the oil the other 1,100 miles were seriously affected but not too extreme. The wildlife in this area was abundant and the oil impact made irreversible damage. Records of the dead animal carcasses located through the four years of cleanup are available but don't represent the full extent of the spill, since the exact number of carcasses is impossible to determine.

Oil killed local animal species in several ways. Once it got on the fur or feathers of birds and mammals, their damaged thermal insulation would cause hypothermia. The animal instinct to clean their own bodies from oil also resulted in numerous deaths from crude oil consumption.

A chain reaction occured because animals migrating through the affected area in search of food ate dead carcasses that are covered in the oil. Blindness caused from the oil gave them no chance against dangerous predators.

Oil spill death toll
When the oil tanker caused an oil spill, results for the environment were massive. The instant damage included around 250,000 seabirds, over 3,500 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles and up to 22 killer whales killed from the incident. Harm to the birds in a sense of decreased reproduction continues to the present.

Fish died but the most serious damage was to their critical spawning and rearing habitats. Adult fish survival rates fell through the next several years, while the larval mortality and physical deformities numbers grew. Pink salmon and pacific herring spawns suffered strong negative effects of the oil, as well as Dolly varden and cutthroat trout feed in shallow water. Over 100 salmon streams were oiled.

The cleanup effort went on for four summers until it was called off. Not all the beaches were covered and some even today contain wreckage from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Most of the treatments used during damage control worked, however, some measures proved ineffective. Future prevention has improved tremendously as a result of the accident.

Next: Exxon Valdez aftermath