An underwater pipeline ruptured about five miles off California’s southern coast in early October, spewing at least 25,000 gallons of oil into the sea. While the exact cause remains unclear, investigators believe the pipeline may have been damaged by one or more ships’ anchors. The oil quickly reached the coast and spread south, within a few days washing up on beaches more than 50 miles away.
The slick was not as large as originally feared, but still harmed and killed numerous wild animals. An unknown number of dead fish washed up on shore, at least one dolphin and several sea lions were killed, and dozens of birds coated in oil—most of them dead—were collected by responders. In addition to fouling beaches, the oil seeped into the Talbert Marsh, a 25-acre coastal ecological reserve that provides important wetland habitat for a variety of wildlife, including 90 avian species. The disaster is the latest in a long history of US oil pipeline spills and serves as yet another deadly reminder of the urgent need to rapidly shift away from fossil fuels.