Six Months After Gulf Oil Disaster Began, What Progress?

Aftershocks of the Gulf oil disaster will continue to cast a long shadow of uncertainty on the Gulf ecosystem

10-20-2010 // Miles Grant
Oiled pelicans waiting to be cleaned

Today marks six months since the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and gushed more than 170 million gallons of oil combined with large quantities of hydrocarbon gases.

To put this anniversary in perspective, Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, compared what we know now about the Gulf disaster with we knew about the Exxon Valdez disaster six months after it had happened. 

“Looking back at what we knew six months after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska illustrates the danger of too quickly drawing conclusions about the full impacts of the Gulf oil disaster," said Inkley. "Six months after the Exxon Valdez disaster, the herring stocks in Prince William Sound seemed like they’d pull through. It wasn’t until the fourth year after the disaster that herring stocks collapsed due to a delayed population effect of the oil, devastating the people and wildlife that depended on them. Today, more than two decades later, this once-vital fish still hasn’t recovered."

It could likely be years, if not decades, before the full impacts of the BP oil spill disaster are known.

“The Exxon Valdez disaster was not simply one ecosystem earthquake – the aftershocks have continued to this day,"said Inkley. "What tremors are still to come in the Gulf? The aftershocks of the Gulf oil disaster will continue to cast a long shadow of uncertainty on the Gulf ecosystem and the livelihoods of those who depend upon it for years to come.”

As part of NWF's immediate response to the oil spill, Inkley traveled to ground zero of the disaster, reporting how the oil was impacting wildlife in the Gulf. 

“As I look back on my days in Louisiana’s wetlands wading through thick black oil in prime pelican habitat, I continue to wonder: How long must we wait for lawmakers to act to prevent future disasters? How many more lives, livelihoods and animals must be claimed by our addiction to oil?”

Related Resources
  • Learn more about the National Wildlife Federation’s response to the Gulf oil disaster at NWF.org/OilSpill.
  • Read NWF's blog coverage of the BP Oil Spill disaster

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