Impact of Oil Activity on Whales
by Sarah.B & Christina O.

What Is An Oil Spill?
Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

An oil spill is defined as "the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the enviornment due to human activity, and is a form of pollutation. The term often refers to marine oil spills, where oil is released into ocean or coastal waters".
Five facts about oil spills:

  • The largest oil spill in history was in Alaska. The Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil.
  • Oils spills do not just occur in oceans! They can also occur in rivers, bays, and lakes.
  • Operator error, and equipment failure are contribuiting factors to oil spills.
  • In the past, acts of terrorism were contribuiting factors to oil spills.
  • When animals come in contact with oil, the oil covers their fur and feathers.

* For more facts about oil spills visit: Facts About Oil Spills.

Why Are Oil Spills Dangerous?
Whether an oil spill is caused by a platform or a tanker, it is still very dangerous. Not only are there short term and long term hazards to the ocean and coastal waters but marine organisms suffer a lot. The life of many fish, dolphins, and even whales are in grave danger. Oil spills create mass mortality amoung these organisms. Humans, too are affected by oil spills. When an oil spill occurs in regions with a high population of human activity, humans become outraged. They are upset for many reasons, including :
*their beaches are polluted by oil
*their sea birds and marine creatures are killed or injured
*the oil companies do not pay for the entire clean up
*their government accepts a donation from the oil company instead of prosecuting it in the International Court.

How are whales affected?
Oil Spills are a contribuiting factor to the decrease in whale population. Whales depends heavily on their 'blow holes' located on the tops of their heads. The 'blow hole' acts as the whales nostril; allowing them to breathe. When a whale swims through an oil spill the whale is in immediate danger! The oil fills the blow hole , suffocating these beautiful animals. As a result of the suffocation, the whales drown. Below is a picture of a whale's blow hole:
Whales Blow Hole

Before oil riggs begin drilling, they use Seismic Testing to locate potential sites. These seismic test create a decibel level of 260, this is TERRIBLE for whales. Whales have very sensitive hearing, when they are exposed to seismic testing they become disorientated. They are also known to suffer from breaching and brain hemorrhaging. Posted below is a video of a group of whales and dolphins swimming through an oil spill:

Another way the oil industry is harming the whale population is by releasing mercury, lead, cadmium, and radium into the waters. These are all harmful toxins which kill whales, that are released during offshore drilling.
However, the majority of harm to the whales is due to oil spills. Not only do they suffocate, these creatures (as mentioned above), they also lead to many serious conditions which immediatley or eventually lead to death. These conditions include hypothermia( due to changes of conductance in the skin), damaged airways, congested lungs, toxicity, and organ dysfunction. To learn more about the effects of Offshore drilling on whales, <-Visit

Below are pictures of whales caught in an oil spill :
Whale off of Deep Water Horizon, Gulf Coast.

Whales caught in Flordia Oil Spill

3 Dead whales found in Port Aransas, Texas. From the Gulf Coast Oil spill 2008

This is a map of the Gulf of Mexico where a large oil spill occured. Below is a link to another , more detailed map of Gulf. It is the latest, to date. View: Latest Oil Spill Update

Below are references that we used to research our information, illustrated above. Feel free to chek them out!

Title: National Geographic on Oil Spills.
Viewed: February 14 2011

Title: How Does Offshore Drilling Affect The Ocean & Marine Life?
Viewed:February 7 2011

Title:Affects Of Oil Spills Towards People.
Viewed: February 10 2011