Oil Spill Effects

Oil spills affect marine life and local industry for years, even decades after they occur. The effects of oil spills are worse when the site is near coastal communities. Shorelines are typically teeming with species that flourish on the water's surface, including birds, sea otters, fish, and invertebrates. When a massive amount of oil is spilled into these areas, it harms the health of marine life. Oil spills also impact local industry; the fishing, shipping, and tourism industries often suffer economic losses after oil spills.

The effects of oil spills are worse when they occur near coastlines

Marine Life

Waterfowl, fish, plants, and living organisms suffer serious health effects after oil spills. Oil can be ingested, inhaled, and absorbed by marine life

Birds, Fish, and Sea Mammals

Oil spills are particularly devastating to species that depend on the health of the ocean for their own survival. The health effects of oil spills include:

  • Hypothermia: contact with oil can harm the insulation of feathers and fur, leaving birds, sea otters, and seals vulnerable to hypothermia.
  • Poisoning: Sea mammals, birds, and fish can be killed or sickened if they ingest or inhale oil; smaller organisms such as plankton can be contaminated, poisoning species further up the food chain.
  • Drowning: Birds who have come into physical contact with oil slicks can get weighed down by the substance and drown.
  • Disturbed breeding grounds: Fish eggs and larvae, as well as bird eggs, are sensitive to toxins and can be damaged by oil spills; birds and fish that are exposed to oil often experience impaired reproductive abilities.
  • Deformities: Marine life may suffer from deformities such as stunted growth, fin abnormalities, fertility problems, and other impairments.
  • Other damage: Marine life's respiratory, cardiac, and immune systems can be compromised due to oil spills.


Oil can halt the germination and growth of algae, seaweed, kelp, and other plant life.


When major oil spills occur, employees and businesses may find themselves out of work.


The livelihood of many workers and companies in coastal communities depends on the ocean to provide a supply of healthy seafood during fishing seasons. When oil spills occur near shorelines, the toxins kill or contaminate fish stocks.


When oil spills into open water, it often interferes with shipping routes. The oil from the spill can damage ships and spread the spill even further; in many cases, ships are ordered to bypass areas affected by spills.


Coastal communities tend to attract tourists that want to take waterfront vacations. When an oil spill occurs and washes onshore, it can mar the scenery and make the water unsafe for swimming and other water sports. This can have a significant effect on hotels, restaurants, recreational water sports shops, and other businesses that cater to tourists.

Contact a Lawyer

If your life has been adversely affected by an oil spill, contact an attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for loss of wages and property damage.

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