Oil spills happen for a number of reasons, with some of the primary causes being:
• When oil tankers break down due to faulty equipment
• When attempts are made after they have run aground and holes are caused from abrasions against rocks and sand
• Motor boats leaking fuel
• Through drilling works that are being carried out at sea
Oil spills from boats are considered to be a form of pollution, and have an incredibly adverse effect on the environment, especially where animals are concerned.
What are the effects of oil spills on animals?
Animals, especially sea birds, that are affected by oil spills, suffer hypothermia, poisoning, and blindness, all of which can lead to their eventual death.
Oil spills are a death threat to sea otters too. They have air bubbles in their fur that help them to float and survive the cold water. When these air bubbles are covered with oil, the otters also suffer from hypothermia, and lose the ability to swim properly too, and eventually die.
Killer whales are a third group of sea animals for which an oil spill is a death sentence. The oil blocks up the whale’s blow hole, making it unable to breathe underwater. They also die from poisoning when they eat sea birds or fish that have already been contaminated by the oil spill.
Small organisms such as plankton and larval fish, as well as other sea life like seaweed, mussels, and oysters, die from the effects of an oil spill, which has an enormous damaging effect on the food chain. Fish that normally prey on these small animals will die from lack of food, and their predators in turn, will also be effected.
Oil forms a thick layer on the surface of the water, thus blocking out the sunlight that marine plant life needs to thrive. They are then unable to photosynthesise, which leads to the gradual reduction of oxygen under the sea. Not only do the plants themselves die, but their inability to photosynthesise will have disastrous effects on the natural food chain, thus affecting all marine life in the area.
In some cases, entire species of marine mammals, birds, and fish have been killed off through oil spills. These spills also damage the reproductive systems of many marine animals, making it harder for their population to recover.