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Expert comment on the Grande America oil spill

JessAn Italian cargo ship carrying 45 containers of "dangerous materials" has sunk in the Atlantic and leaked a sheet of oil reported as 10 kilometres long and one km wide.

Dr Jessica Shepherd , Senior Teaching Fellow in Global Sustainable Development at the University of Warwick, explains the environmental risks:

"Oil slicks in the sea pose an ecological threat because, among other impacts, they prevent light penetrating down into the water. For larger, mobile species who are able to swim away from the oil slick, the threat is minimal, however there will be a high mortality rate for those species left behind. Similarly, because oil floats on the surface, sea birds and marine mammals are likely to be most affected. The risks and potential ecosystem damage will be more severe the closer that the oil gets to the coast line, and into shallower water.

"Efforts are currently underway to clean up the oil, however, should the oil reach the French coast, the ecological impacts will likely be much more severe. ‘Heavy Oil’ (such as those use to power cargo ships) acts as a suffocating blanket over habitats and can persist in the environment for months or even years. Heavy oils are arguably less toxic than lighter oils such as diesel, but long-term an cause chronic health issues for many organisms, if left."

14 March 2019


Sheila Kiggins

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