Exxon Valdez oil spill

Exxon – company involved

Valdez – ship involved

The Valdez departed from the Trans Alaskan Pipeline’s end. On March 24th 1989, it struck Bligh reef.

Causes

  • Lack of proper navigation, possibly from alcohol
  • Failure of Exxon to supervise and provide a rested and sufficient crew
  • Failure of coastguard to provide effective vessel traffic systems
  • Captain told a pilot to avoid ice bergs and go back into shipping lanes at a certain point, leading to confusion.

11 million gallons of oil were spilled.

Impacts

  • More than 35,000 birds killed
  • 1,000 otters found covered in oil (or dead)

Most animals will sink when they die, so only a small proportion have been found. Estimates are that:

  • 250,000 birds died
  • 800 harbour seals died
  • 250 bald eagles died
  • 22 whales died
  • and 1 x10^9 fish eggs were wiped out

59% of tourism businesses received cancellations, Visitors to the area decreased by 39% compared to the previous summer.

The captain was fined US$50,000 and did 1,000 hours of community service.

20 acres are still contaminated; US$580 has been lost on fishing and US$2.8 x 10^9 worth of damage was caused. It took 4 summers of clean-up before they had given up, and some beaches were still oily. The clean up was finally complete in 1992, with a total coast of £2 x10^9 being spent on clean up.

10,000 workers, 1,000 boats, and 100 helicopters and other aircraft were needed for the clean up.Winter storms do more for the clean up than the workers, but mean that the oil is back in the sea. The spill was actually good for hotels as visitors came to help with the cleaning.

Exxon themselves spent US$2.1 x10^9 on clean up operations.

In 1998, the Alaskan SeaLife Centre opened in Seward, funded mostly by money from the Exxon Valdez fine. As well as a visitors’ centre it performs research on cold-water fish, seabirds and marine mammals, and rehabilitates injured marine wildlife.

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