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Drilling Is Tragic For Marine Life

Posted by Content Coordinator on Thursday, March 26th, 2015


Top: Bottlenose dolphins. Middle: Right whales. Lower: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill containment effort.Our coasts are home to stunning wildlife and incredible beaches, from the Jersey Shore to the Outer Banks to the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately offshore drilling is putting our natural heritage and marine life at risk. On ‘good’ days, drilling kills and injures wildlife and threatens human health and the economy. When they happen (which is all too frequently) major disasters such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon blowout are catastrophic.

Bird populations at risk from drilling

  • Sea birds are attracted to offshore drilling platforms by lights, burning flares and human food that can be scavenged. Birds are killed or injured after colliding with the structures, becoming contaminated with oil and related chemicals, and even being burned by flares.
  • Roughly 200,000 migratory birds are killed each year near offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. They often fly circles around platforms for hours at a time, exhausting themselves or colliding with platforms or other birds.
  • Birds’ feathers can get coated with oil, preventing them from being able to keep warm and reducing their ability to float.

Food chain disrupted

  • Each year, U.S. offshore drilling rigs are responsible for dozens of spills of crude oil, natural gas liquids, diesel and hydraulic fluids into the environment.
  • Oil breaks down into components that accumulate through the food chain, poisoning whales, dolphins, turtles, birds, fish and shellfish.
  • Oil and related chemicals may also damage the immune and reproductive systems of exposed birds, fish and shellfish, lowering populations of affected species and denying food to the predators that depend on them.

You Drill You Spill

The Gulf of Mexico, home to most of the United States’ offshore drilling operations, has suffered one spill larger than 100,000 gallons every other year on average since 1964. The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster was estimated to have killed or injured more than 25,000 dolphins and whales, along with “tens of thousands” of sea turtles, 80,000 birds and untold numbers of fish and shellfish. Technological improvements do not necessarily reduce the risk. 98.8 percent of offshore spills in the Gulf of Mexico from 1964 to 2012 were caused by weather, equipment failure, human error or “external forces.”

Download full version (PDF): Drilling Is Tragic For Marine Life

About Environment North Carolina
Environment North Carolina is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. We believe there’s something special about North Carolina — something worth protecting and preserving for future generations. Whether it’s watching for sea turtles at Cape Hatteras or taking in the views along the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina’s natural wonders enrich our lives in countless ways.


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