The Beacon

New Report: The Oil Spill's Impact on Sea Turtles

© AP/Dave Martin

Today we released a new report that describes the potential effects of the oil spill on endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sea turtles can become coated in oil or inhale volatile chemicals when they surface to breathe, swallow oil or contaminated prey, and swim through oil or come in contact with it on nesting beaches.

As of yesterday, 32 oiled sea turtles have been found in the Gulf of Mexico and more than 320 sea turtles have been found dead or injured since the spill began April 20.

While some dead and injured sea turtles are found by search crews or wash up on the beach, some never will. Ocean currents often carry them out to sea where they can sink or be eaten by predators.

Our report shows that the ongoing oil spill can have the following impacts on sea turtles:

  • Oil or dispersants on the sea turtle’s skin and body can cause skin irritation, chemical burns and infections.
  • Inhalation of volatile petroleum compounds and dispersants can damage the respiratory tract and lead to diseases such as pneumonia.
  • Ingesting oil or dispersants can cause injury to the gastrointestinal tract, which may affect the animals’ ability to absorb or digest food.
  • Inhaled or ingested chemicals can damage liver, kidney and brain function, cause anemia and immune suppression, or lead to reproductive failure or death.
  • Oil on developing sea turtle nests can increase egg mortality and lead to potential deformities in the hatchlings that do survive.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill could also destroy important sea turtle habitat areas such as seagrass beds and coral reefs, as well as reduce food availability.

Check out the full report for more.


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