Oil Harms Birds and Marine Species

After a storm wrecked several ships, large quantities of fuel oil and sulphur leaked into the Kerch Strait—injuring and killing thousands of birds, fish and other marine wildlife. Photo: Russian Doors-Marine PhotobankIn what may have been the worst environmental disaster in the Black Sea region in years, 18-foot waves in the Kerch Strait off the southern coast of Russia sank five ships and an oil tanker this November. Approximately 2,000 tons of fuel oil, in addition to sulfur, leaked into the water. In addition to several human fatalities, early estimates reported the deaths of 30,000 birds and 9,000 fish. The "environmentally sensitive" area is along an important migration route, and 11 of the bird species impacted are already endangered. Cleanup will go on for months, and officials have said the effects will last for up to a decade. That same week in the United States, a ship in the San Francisco Bay scraped a bridge and began leaking fuel—eventually causing more damage than any spill in the area in over 10 years. Though events such as these have been reduced due to legislation resulting from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, they remain a preventable threat to wildlife around the world.