On 24 March 1989, an oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck Prince Willian Sound’s Bligh Reef, which is a habitat for salmon, sea otters and various marine animals. Over 40000 barrels of crude oil were spilled over the next few days and eventually covered 1300 miles of coastline and more than 10000 square miles of ocean. It was considered to be one of the most disastrous human-caused environmental accidents.
According to official information, this environmental disaster was caused by various human-mistakes. Firstly, the Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the master and provide sufficient crew for the ship, which caused crews to be exhausted from excessive workload, thus failed to properly maneuver the vessel. Secondly, the company failed to properly maintain the radar system, which is used to indicate any impending collision of ship and would highly likely have helped in avoiding the occurrence of the disaster. Moreover, factors such rushing of the ship due to business reasons, the lack of available equipments such as the iceberg monitoring equipment also contributed into causing the tragedy.
This environmental disaster has caused severe impacts on marine life and people living around the affected area in both short and long term. In the short term, the oil spilling has caused mass deaths of seabirds, salmons and herring. Living environment of marine animals is seriously polluted. Vast expenses are also spent on the cleaning up of the oil spills, which caused huge lost of money and resources. Also, the pollution on marine life also affects the income generated from the seafood industry.
In the long run, as it is estimated that over 23000 gallons of crude oil still in Alaska’s sand and soil would gradually break down in the coming years, overall reduction in population would be seen in various ocean animals. Such effect on marine animals’ populations would thus affect the living of endangered killer whales in nearby regions. Food chain would then be cut off, which affects the balance in nature.
To conclude, this oil spilling accident had brought huge cost economically and environmentally. It can be predicted that more indirect impacts derived from the environmental damage such as health problems of seafood consumers, reduce in income of fishermen…etc. would continue arise in the future.