The purpose of this paper is to discuss the effects of oil spills on seafood
The purpose of this paper is to discuss the effects of oil spills on seafood. It will also identify and discuss various solutions to the effects. Moreover, it will recommend measures that can be taken to prevent future oil spills in the sea.
This paper will shed light on the extent to which seafood has been adversely affected by oil spills. Although the effects of oil spills on seafood are numerous, this paper will focus only on three major effects. Empirical studies indicate that oil can adversely affect the health of sea plants and animals that come into contact with it. In this regard, it can contaminate seafood, thereby affecting the health of coastal populations negatively. Thus, oil spills are major problems that have to be addressed in order to prevent contamination of seafood.
An oil spill refers to an accidental release of liquid petroleum (crude or refined) into the environment, especially, large water bodies such as oceans (Kaushik, 2006, p. 96). Seas provide seafood such as fish, crabs, shrimps, lobsters, seaweeds, and microalgae. Thus, discussing the effects of oil spills is important because it can provide insights that may help in maintaining a reliable supply of safe and high quality seafood.
In the last four decades, increased exploration and transportation of oil through seas has led to several incidents of oil spills. In 1979, 140 million gallons of crude oil spilt into the Gulf of Mexico due to an accidental explosion in an oil well. In the same year, two oil tankers collided near the coast of Tobago, thereby spilling 88 million gallons of oil in the Caribbean Sea. In 2010, an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig led to discharge of over 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico (Trevors & Saier, 2010, pp. 1-3).
Effects of Oil Spills on Seafood
Reduced Supply of Seafood
The supply of seafood often reduces significantly in the first six months after an oil spill. One of the reasons for the reduced supply is that oil contains toxic chemicals that poison sea animals (IEM, 2010, pp. 4-54). Empirical studies indicate that sea animals can be poisoned in several ways. To begin with, animals such as fish often breathe by obtaining oxygen from water through their gills. Thus, the toxic chemicals in the oil-contaminated water will clog the fishs gills and spread to the rest of its body.
Various fish species are also poisoned whenever they ingest contaminated food (IEM, 2010, pp. 4-54). For instance, most species of fish feed on planktons that are often contaminated with chemicals after an oil spill. Generally, most sea animals die immediately after being poisoned (IEM, 2010, pp. 4-54). This explains the reduction of the supply of seafood such as fish and crabs after an oil spill.
Oil spills also and damage to internal organs of sea animals. For instance, the immune systems of most fish, crabs, and lobsters become very weak after they come into contact with oil (Barron, 2012, pp. 315-320). This exposes the animals to disease-causing pathogens that ultimately cause their deaths (Gohlke, Doke, & Fitzgerald, 2011, pp. 1062-1069).
Similarly, the growth of edible sea plants such as microalgae is negatively affected by oil spills. In particular, oil deposits on the seafloor changes the composition of the soil and the ecosystem in the deep sea. As a result, several edible sea plants die as their supply of nutrients reduce.
Contamination of Seafood
Contamination of seafood is one of the short-term effects of oil spills. The chemicals ingested by edible sea animals pose a great health risk to the populations that depend on seafood (Gohlke, Doke, & Fitzgerald, 2011, pp. 1062-1069). The digestive systems of most sea animals do very little to alter the chemicals ingested after an oil spill.
Thus, human beings are equally at risk of being poisoned or falling sick after eating contaminated seafood (Griggs, 2014). Contamination of seafood is determined by the type of oil, how close the spill is to fishing grounds, and weather conditions (Gohlke, Doke, & Fitzgerald, 2011, pp. 1062-1069).
Alteration of the Genetic Composition of Seafood
Change in the genetic composition of edible sea plants and animals is both a short-term and a long-term effect of oil spills. Oil deposits in the on the seafloor often among fish, crabs, shrimps, and various species of sea plants. Alteration of the genetic composition of edible sea animals has the following effects.
First, genetic reactions cause deformities that reduce the ability of sea animals such as shrimps, crabs, and lobsters to survive in their environment (Upton, 2011, pp. 1-14). Most species of crabs often develop severe lesions when they come into contact with crude oil. The lesions increase the risk of fungal or bacterial infections among crabs. In addition, the lesions make the crabs unsafe for human consumption.
Oil causes deformities or damage to the gills and liver of most species of fish. As a result, the fish develop complications such as cardiovascular failures that eventually lead to their death. In the first six months after the 2010 BP oil spill, the shrimps harvested in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida were found to be eyeless and their bodies had abnormal growths. In addition, most female shrimps had babies attached on their bodies.
Second, genetic reactions cause fatal diseases among fish, shrimps, and edible sea plants. Sick fish can hardly survive in harsh sea conditions such as low temperatures and increased predation. Moreover, sick fish can cause severe health conditions and diseases when consumed by human beings (Krisberg, 2010). Third, the reproduction rate of fish and other edible sea animals reduce significantly in the long-term as their genes react to the chemicals in oil (IEM, 2010, pp. 4-54).
When the genes of fish change due to exposure to the chemicals in oil, their egg-bearing ability reduces sharply. Generally, several fish species fail to hatch their eggs after being exposed to oil. Moreover, the eggs that are able to hatch tend to be premature and their larvae are often deformed (Upton, 2011, pp. 1-14). These complications reduce the rate at which fish and other edible sea animals reproduce after an oil spill.
The rate of reproduction can remain low for a very long time since oil deposits can stay on the seafloor for several years (Upton, 2011, pp. 1-14). Moreover, significant genetic alteration can lead to extinction of some sea animals and plants. In this case, the overall effect will be a remarkable reduction in the supply of seafood in future.
Cleaning Up the Spill
One of the best solutions to the effects of an oil spill is to clean it up through the following strategies. First, booms and skimmers can be used to remove oil from the sea (Graham, 2010). This method prevents the spread of oil to key areas such the breeding grounds for fish.
This helps in preventing contamination of seafood and destruction of (Kaushik, 2006, p. 168). Second, dispersants can be used to accelerate the oils biodegradation rate. This improves the penetration of light and dissolution of oxygen in water, thereby enhancing the survival of edible sea plants and animals.
Establishing Conservation Sanctuaries
Conservation sanctuaries should be established to prevent significant reduction of the supply of seafood (Kaushik, 2006, p. 170). The sanctuaries can be used as breading grounds where endangered species of fish, crabs, and lobsters can reproduce in order to avoid extinction (Kaushik, 2006, p. 172). The sanctuaries can also be used to treat sick fish, lobsters, and crabs.
Restoring the Sea Plant Population
Biological agents can be used to remove oil deposits on the seafloor to allow sea plants to grow. The biological agents include microorganisms such as bacteria that break down oil into non-toxic substances such as carbon dioxide (Michel, Shigenaka, Hoff, 2013). As the the oil deposits, fertilizing nutrients can be added in the affected areas to accelerate the growth of edible sea plants.
First, oil spills in various seas can be prevented if alternative transportation methods are used. For instance, oil can be refined at source and transported via underground pipelines to various destinations. Moreover, advanced technologies that enhance the safety of oil vessels should be adopted to prevent oil spills during transportation.
Second, regulation in the oil industry should focus on enhancing safety standards in offshore drilling rigs. Industry regulators should ensure that all oil companies adopt safety measures to prevent accidental oil spills that are attributed to system failures. This includes acquiring equipment that facilitates early detection of explosions at drilling rigs.
Third, oil companies should be held responsible for the effects of oil spills. They should pay the cost of cleaning up the sea after an oil spill. This will encourage oil companies to engage in ethical behaviors and to avoid risky operations that can lead to unnecessary oil spills.
The effects of oil spills on seafood include reduced supply, contamination, and alteration of genetic composition. One of the best solutions to the effects of oil spills on seafood is to clean up the affected area as soon as possible. This helps in reducing the exposure of sea animals and plants to the toxic chemicals in oil, thereby preventing contamination of seafood. Oil spills can be prevented by improving regulation in the oil industry.