Today is the 20th anniversary of the grounding of the Exxon Valdez and the subsequent oil spill. This was one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history, and its effects are still apparent in Prince William Sound. Since oil was absorbed into the sand, animals still have access to it.
In its first toxic sweep, the oil spill killed about 250,000 seabirds, 4,000 sea otters, 250 bald eagles, and more than 20 orca whales, according to WWF.To my knowledge, the fishers are also still waiting to receive compensation for those damages from Exxon.
Today, one of the orca pods that lost family members has not recovered.
Sea otters and harlequin ducks continue to die by digging into the sand for food and releasing buried oil.
At the bottom of the food chain, pink salmon eggs and small invertebrates such as mussels and clams are not yet back to their original population levels.
And local fishers, who lost more than U.S. $286 million after the herring fishery collapsed in 1989, are still waiting for the fishery to rebound.
Despite the example of the Exxon Valdez disaster, coastlines and fisheries are still vulnerable to oil slicks.
Since 1993, U.S. offshore drilling has sent an average of 47,800 barrels of oil a year into the sea, according to data from the Minerals Management Service. Offshore drilling platforms are particularly vulnerable to storms: The Coast Guard estimates that roughly 9 million gallons of oil were spilled during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita alone.
Contrary to what the oil industry would like us to believe, there is no effective method for cleaning up an oil spill. And where there are tankers and offshore drilling, there always will be spills.