Many species still not recovered after Exxon Valdez spill

Thirteen years on, and there are still many species of wildlife that have still not recovered from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound on the coast of Alaska, according to new figures.


According to the US governmental Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, there are eight species of wildlife that are showing little or no clear improvement from the oil spill in 1989. These species are: the common loon, three species of cormorant, the harbour seal, harlequin duck, pacific herring and pigeon guillemot.

An example of species that are still suffering, is that of the region’s cormorants. Following the accident, carcasses of 838 cormorants were recovered, including 418 pelagic, 161 red-faced, 38 double-crested and 221 unidentified cormorants. But many more are thought to have died. Thirteen years later, populations sizes are still small, and so are thought to be not recovering.

However, there are also a number of species and areas that are recovering – with varying levels of success. These are: clams, killer whales, marbled murrelets – a small fish-eating bird, mussels, and the sea otter. Habitats that are still recovering are designated wilderness areas, intertidal communities, and sediments.

There are a further four species whose status is not known because current research is either inconclusive or has not been completed. These are the cutthroat trout, dolly varden – a species of fish that lives close to the shore, Kittlitz’s murrelet, and rockfish. The status for subtidal communities is also not known.

However, there is also some good news, with six species being moved onto the list of recovered species. These are: the bald eagle, black oystercatcher, common murres – a medium-sized sea bird that nests in crowded colonies, pink salmon, river otter, and sockeye salmon. Archaeological resources have also now recovered.

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