The impact of chemical and oil spills spreads beyond their immediate environment. These spills — which occur, globally, thousands of times each year — affect animals and humans alike.
1. They alter the economy.
Spills commonly impact tourism, as they often occur along popular coastlines and prevent beachgoers from swimming, fishing, and completing other marine activities. Aside from canceled vacations, spills can result in a loss of food revenue as fisheries dramatically slow or halt production.
2. They disrupt the food chain.
Studies suggest that the structure of the food chain changes entirely when impacted by an oil or chemical spill. The loss of certain species can lead to an excess of others, meaning that repair must focus on the entire food web. Species contamination can set up a chain reaction, as well; if eaten, smaller creatures can pass on the contamination to their predators — including humans.
3. They destroy habitats.
Since many spills are coastal, marine life is disproportionately affected by these disasters. Oil often floats on the water, killing surrounding wildlife via direct contact or ingestion. Though many factors determine the impact of spills, effects can linger for years after a spill occurs, slowly degrading the region’s entire ecosystem.
Chemical or oil spills present a number of hurdles, but a Spill Management Team (SMT) can help expedite the recovery process and ensure that spills harm as few species as possible.