Gulf of Mexico spill warning to B.C.

By Abby Wiseman [Environmental Bureau Chief]

If you’ve spent the last few weeks in a final exam bubble, then it’s good to know that the world did not stop for you and many things have happened.

One thing that should take precedence in your re-entry into the world is a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

On April 20 an explosion on a BP oil rig allowed thousands of barrels of crude oil to spill into the ocean. Despite efforts from BP and the U.S., the slick black oil has made its way to Louisiana’s coastline.

Not only is this disaster a tragedy for marine life, but also for humans; there are 11 oil rig workers that are missing and presumed dead. Spills like this are nothing new and according to the water encyclopedia, there has been an average of 24 oil spills a year since 1970.

For those out there who are ‘80s kids, you may have a vivid (or vague) memory of the major Exxon Valdez oil spill that happened in 1989 off the coast of Alaska. Thousands of animals were instantly killed by the deadly sludge, and local residents worked tirelessly to clean up the ocean and the coastline. The disaster dumped over 40 million litres of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound and the effects of the spill are still felt today, 21 years later.

One prime example of the ecological damage is the Prince William Sound Herring population, which dropped off a few years after the spill as their habitat was damaged by the spill.

Scientist are still measuring the environmental damage now and a study done by the University of North Carolina, predicts that it will take 30 years for the region’s marine life to heal.

The Alaska spill is not the largest spill ever recorded, and with the collected number of oil spills, this means bad news for the ocean at large. It seems that the world’s addiction to oil, may be the demise of the it’s precious oceans.

The Gulf of Mexico’s oil spill has raised many questions of what measures should be taken to stop oil companies from drilling off the coast of B.C., an untapped goldmine.

So far there has been a ban on drilling off the coast of B.C., but with the proposed Enbridge line, a pipeline spanning that will funnel oil from the Albertan oil sands to B.C.’s coast, that moratorium may be easier to remove.

The passage of oil is as common as your stop at Starbucks, and when you average out the amount of spills to the amount of oil transported the ratio is small.

But it only takes one spill to damage the delicate balance of life in our waters.

Politicians are taking a protective stand on our coast, but like the run-of-river projects that are littering our lands streams, those politicians may be blinded by dollar signs, so it’s best to keep an eye on this one.

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