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How does oil impact marine life?

Oil spills are harmful to marine birds and mammals as well as fish and shellfish.

oiled shellfish, birds, and turtle

Following an oil spill, there are specialists and veterinarians to deal with oiled wildlife. These experts are trained on how to clean oil from animals, rehabilitate them, and return them to the environment.

Oil destroys the insulating ability of fur-bearing mammals, such as sea otters, and the water repellency of a bird's feathers, thus exposing these creatures to the harsh elements. Without the ability to repel water and insulate from the cold water, birds and mammals will die from hypothermia.

Many birds and animals also ingest oil when they try to clean themselves, which can poison them.

Fish and shellfish may not be exposed immediately, but can come into contact with oil if it is mixed into the water column. When exposed to oil, adult fish may experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment. Oil also adversely affects eggs and larval survival.