The Deepwater Horizon oil spill will forever be a part of history, and has recently been a major driver for a change of protocol and regulation. One aspect of this disaster that is a direct consequence is how marine life has been impacted since April 20th, 2010.
Marine mammals have been greatly affected by the spill and populations may never fully recover. The three main species of marine mammals affected are already vulnerable populations. They are bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales, and Byrd’s whales. The physical damage of these species is critical, as the spill has caused oiling and inhalation of toxic fumes, but there is an equally critical and perhaps less known impact. The spill happened during the reproductive cycle for bottlenose dolphins, which will likely have a significant impact on the population. Many were found dead and many more were stranded and stillborn or neonates. However, this has not been officially linked to the spill even though many were covered in oil. Even a small number of calf deaths has a significant effect on the dolphin population. This holds true because the dolphins have made homes in many isolated areas of the Gulf. The effects on sperm and Byrd’s whales are not as known at this point, but with both species being endangered, the oil and toxics left behind cannot be good for the population.
This oil spill has been publicized and become an event that has been the driving force behind many changes in many areas. As humans, we have control of many aspects of life, but not others. How the spill has affected fisherman and businesses in the Gulf region is one aspect that cannot be controlled by those who were directly affected. They rely on fish and the species that support them in order to sustain their businesses, and many of these assets are now permanently damaged and limited in number. Many of the dolphins and whales have died due to direct causes like inhaling toxic fumes and being covered in oil. There is another driving force that could affect these vulnerable populations; their food sources are dying off due to the same reasons they are at risk. These are all examples of why society needs to kick the fossil fuel addiction it has had for so long. We owe it to ourselves, but also to the rest of the ecosystem. It is imperative for survival.