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Galveston Bay Oil Spill Continues to Threaten Marine Wildlife, Fishing Industry


by: Katie Singh

Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 09:00 AM CDT


Up to 168,000 gallons of fuel oil are still sitting in Galveston Bay after last weekend's massive oil spill. Though the cleanup progressed far enough that the Houston Ship Channel could be reopened on Tuesday, the long-term effects of the spill are still unfolding.

As little as two days after the spill, the Houston Audubon Society had already begun to find oiled birds in the surrounding area. Scientists had predicted that the effects of the spill on the local ecosystem could last for decades to come.

Now, over a week after the spill, the situation continues to escalate in Galveston Bay. The oil spill's impact on wildlife is growing, and experts are predicting major effects on the local fishing industry. The spill even has the potential to affect human health.

Read more about the harmful effects of the Galveston Bay oil spill after the jump.

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The shorebirds and seabirds that populate Galveston Bay are most at risk for harm. The Houston Audubon Society has already seen an increase in the number of oiled birds observed around the spill site since last Sunday. The spill occurred just a few miles from the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, an important wildlife refuge, and thus has put more birds at risk. What's more, the spring migration season has just begun, which means even more birds will soon be travelling through the area.

The oil has been rapidly spreading around down the Texas coast. Oil has reached Matagorda Island, and has soiled 12 miles of beaches there. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working to set up booms to keep the oil out of Matagorda Bay.

Marine life has also been impacted by the spill. There's no telling how badly the fish population will be affected. Fish exposed to oil are at risk for cardiac arrest and death. In addition, the oil spill has come just before the spawning season for the shrimp who live in Galveston Bay. If oil gets into the marshy areas where the shrimp live, they could get stuck in the thick, tarry oil and die.

Fish who don't die could still carry the toxins from the oil in their bodies and carry it up the food chain as far as humans. Either way, the Galveston Bay fishing industry, which harvests $16.4 million of fish per year, is going to face a large blow.

The oil spill could also impact human health. Public health officials are warning people to stay away from areas contaminated with oil. Inhaling oil vapors can cause "headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and eye and throat irritation." They've also warned Texans about the dangers of eating contaminated seafood and told people not to go fishing in the area.

Whatever the lasting effects of the Galveston oil spill may be, the incident has served as a sobering reminder of the immense impact human activity can have on our planet.  



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