Lessons from Alaska – Fish and Wildlife

Yesterday, we met with scientists and fishermen that study the impacts of the Exxon Valdez spill on the fish and wildlife. Sadly, what they have found is that after the initial impact of the oil, the true impact on a species, such as herring, did not show up for many years. Moreover, the impact could not always be related directly to the oil. For example, several years after the spill, herring succumbed to disease. Although many feel that the outbreak of the disease resulted from the fact that the species had been weakened by exposure to oil, this was disputed by the oil companies.The scientists warn that only through comprehensive, long-term monitoring will the real effects of the spill on many Gulf species be known. Additionally, we must ensure now that a comprehensive ecosystem-based monitoring plan be developed and implemented, rather than piece meal monitoring, so that impacts to the foodweb and other important but often overlooked aspects of the ecosystem can be studied. Otherwise, like Alaska, we will be left with a piecemeal approach that ignores damage to the ecosystem that can have long-term effects on species, such as red snapper, grouper, dolphins, turtles and birds.

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