By Helena Donner
The Gulf oil spill, which was caused by an oil blowout, is not your average environmental worry. What makes this catastrophe unique is that it occurred at 5,000 feet under the water. Normally, an oil tanker releases the oil on the surface of the ocean. While both types of spills are incredibly toxic to the environment, the Gulf oil spill has some unprecedented consequences for the entire region. It may take decades to calculate the true extent of the damage wreaked upon the environment and society.
Located only forty miles offshore, at the destruction site of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon, the spill has released millions of gallons of oil into the ocean. Bottom-dwelling species, which constitute the main fishing staple in the area, may be affected. Fishermen who earn their living along the coastal marshes of the Gulf states may witness the decline of several marine species who inhabit the region. Coastal marshes frequently serve as breeding grounds for myriad species. Because of this, the toxic effects of the oil could cripple certain fishing industries.
Not only will this spill effect the wildlife normally associated with oil slicks, such as birds and sea mammals, but it will also take a toll on the unique fauna of the deep sea. Rare, barely-known species could face potential contamination. Thanks to the hostile, pressurized environment in which these creatures of the deep reside, scientists may never know exactly how much damage has been done.
The human toll is also hard to estimate. Though eleven workers on BP’s oil rig were killed, more human costs remain to be seen. Cajun culture is in serious jeopardy thanks to increasing pressure on an already weakened environment. Those who live along the Gulf bayous may not be able to continue the fishing and food practices that have become ingrained into their personalities. These people may have to leave their homes-again. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina, the ever-decreasing size of the Mississippi Delta region, and the oil spill, the entire Gulf region faces huge environmental, economic, and social consequences.
With fishing industries, entire cultures, and beautiful habitats playing victim to the toxicity of the oil spill, there are the obvious consequences and the not-so-obvious ones. Certain issues are already apparent. Eleven people died, millions of gallons of oil poured into the Gulf, and sea creatures are dead or dying. Experts don’t yet know how far-reaching the effects of this spill will be on Cajun culture, deep sea species, and the unique environments of the Gulf wetlands. One thing is for sure, the healing process will take the region years to complete.