Marine Life Rebounds in Wake of Gulf Oil Spill

Published January 3, 2011

When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up last April, killing 11 workers and spewing untold millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, dire predictions about the accident’s effect on marine life abounded. Yet as costly as the BP accident was, there are signs the gulf’s marine life has come through both events in remarkably good shape.

Turtles, Fish Abundant
From Louisiana to Florida, marine biologists report a variety of sea creatures are flourishing.

On Florida’s beaches, for example, the number of loggerhead turtle nests is above the 10 year average. Similarly, nests of green turtles and leatherback turtles along Florida’s 800 miles of coastline have reached near-record numbers. In the case of the loggerhead turtles, the spike in the number of nests reversed a 10 year decline that had concerned marine biologists.

There is even more encouraging news from the nutrient-rich waters off Alabama and Mississippi. In the aftermath of the BP oil spill, the Obama administration, to the consternation of the region’s seafood industry, banned shrimping in the affected area of the gulf. Since the ban was lifted Aug. 16, commercial and recreational fishermen report no trouble in landing sizeable catches.

“Despite the terrible visuals and acute damage that accompany a spill, oil is, after all, an organic substance. Conceived with solar power in the form of biomass or other life forms, this concentrated organic material has been naturally seeping into the environment for millions of years, and nature has developed effective antibodies which feed upon it,” explained Dan Kish, vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research. 

Economics Will Deter Repeat
Kish said economic incentives will assist regulatory reforms in reducing the likelihood of future spills.

“The economic inducement alone should suffice to lower the likelihood of future spills,” said Kish. “The estimated 5 million barrels spilled would have sold for $350 to $400 million. BP estimates its eventual cleanup cost at an additional $400 billion.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington. D.C.