Pristine rocky beach
Shallow scratch below surface
for old wounds unhealed
More than 25 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, oil persisted on the beaches in the spill-affected area. The Lingering Oil Component of the Gulf Watch Alaska project monitored lingering oil and effects of oil on sea otter and Harlequin duck populations during the period 2012- 2015. These projects have long-term data sets that contain information dating back to 1990.
Why were we monitoring?
Many species that were affected by the toxicity of Exxon Valdez oil took years to recover, and some species are still recovering. Monitoring and understanding the persistence of oil in the environment is an important component of evaluating the affected ecosystems.
What did we find?
The conclusions of our monitoring project are that:
- Sea otters and harlequin ducks, the species most directly affected by oil lingering in the nearshore environment, appear to no longer be exposed to oil. The affected populations have recovered from the spill.
- Weathering rates of the lingering oil, and thus its biological availability, appeared negligible during the monitoring period, which explains the apparent lack of exposure.