Compare the Exxon Valdez and BP Oil Spills

Many people remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and are asking - how will the Gulf oil disaster compare? Here's a quick chart to help.

In 1989 and the years following the Exxon Valdez spill, National Wildlife magazine had in-depth coverage. Check out some of these articles for more information: 


BP Oil Spill

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Source of Oil

Deepwater Horizon oil platform - broken well pipe

Exxon Valdez oil tanker

Date Spill Began

April 20, 2010

March 24, 1989

Total Estimated Oil Spilled

An estimated 172 million gallons

10.8 million gallons

Key Wildlife Species Affected

Brown pelican, reddish egret, royal tern, snowy plover, sperm whale, bluefin tuna, sea turtle. Learn more >>

Salmon, sea otters, seals and sea birds. Learn more >> 

How Many Wildlife Died?

TBD. Find out what has been reported to date >>

100,000-250,000 seabirds
2,800 sea otters
12 river otters
300 harbor seals
247 bald eagles
22 orcas
billions of salmon and herring eggs

Long Term Effects


Still not completely recovered after 20 years:

  • Barrows Goldeneyes
  • Black Oystercatchers
  • Harlequin Ducks
  • Killer Whales
  • Sea Otters
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Sediments
  • Intertidal Communities

Still not Recovering after 20 years:

  • Pacific Herring
  • Pigeon Guillemots

Human Services Still Impaired:

  • Commercial Fishing
  • Recreation
  • Tourism
  • Subsistence

Cause of Spill

Oil well explosion

The tanker struck a reef

Leak Location

5,000 feet below the surface

Mostly on the surface


Fact Sources:

New York Times – The Oil Spill: Wildlife at Risk
New York Times - Size of Spill in Gulf of Mexico Is Larger Than Thought
Houston Chronicle

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Five Years and Counting, a report by the National Wildlife Federation