February 28, 2018

Lingering Oil from Exxon Valdez Spill

A scientist collects a sample of lingering oil on an armored beach for chemical analysis during the 2015 NMFS survey. Smith Island, Prince William Sound, Alaska. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries.

A small portion of the oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill still lingers in patches beneath Prince William Sound, Alaska, beaches. However, this and other studies suggests the remaining oil is sequestered, or buried, and currently is not posing a risk to the coastal and marine ecosystem.

“In the early years after the spill, experts anticipated that the oil would naturally degrade and not persist in the environment. After repeated visits to specific sites over the last 15 years, I haven’t found this to be the case. For these sites, the oil may be in the environment for a long time,” says study leader Mandy Lindeberg, a NOAA Fisheries scientist.

Few spills in the marine environment have presented the opportunity to measure persistence and loss rates over such a duration. Findings from this study provide resource managers with important insights for recovery and protection efforts after major oil spills.

To learn more read the full NOAA Fisheries Highlights article: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/lingering-oil-exxon-valdez-spill