Amoco Cadiz Oil Spill

Oil spills received considerable attention because of the immediate and very visible harm they cause to the surrounding ecosystem.

Media attention usually subsides following the initial clean-up phase. However, the affected communities face a longer term ecological problem. Research about the Amoco Cadiz oil highlightsb short and long term ecological problems associated with large scale oil spills.

On March 16, 1978, the oil tanker Amoco Cadiz got caught in a storm off the coast of Brittany, France, at the southern end of the English Channel.

It ran aground and began spilling oil. The site of the spill, along with inclement weather, complicated early clean-up efforts. In a week's time, the tanker split in two, insuring that its entire cargo of 1,619,048 barrels of oil (220,000 tons) would spill into the sea.

Approximately one-third of the spilled oil evaporated, one-third washed up along the coast and one-third was either recovered or sank to the bottom of the sea.

Large oils spills can cause considerable damage, depending on the time of the spill and the area affected. An article in BirdLife suggests that bird mortality was in the 20,000 range, ranking it among the highest rates recorded along European coast. In context, the numbers are relatively small compared to the estimated 375,000 and 435,000 birds killed by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

High mortality levels among inter-tidal animals such as limpets, sea urchins and clams were also reported.

Along with the harm caused by the oil, clean-up activity affected the salt marsh areas of the Brittany coast, with recovery time estimated to be in the five year range.

Benthic organisms in the spill area were reported affected some ten years after the spill.

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