Before the latest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, people had very little idea of the extent of oil spill damages that these occurrences bring. As far as most people are concerned, oil spills are nothing more than minor accidents, usually lasting a few weeks or so, and are usually self-correcting. As illustrated by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010, this is not the case. In fact, oil spill damages have critical, long-lasting effects not only where the merchants are concerned, but also on the environment and all the inhabitants of the region where the spill occurred. Scientists classify oil spill damages into two major categories: socio-economic and ecological.
Ecological oil spill damages
Probably the most significant oil spill damages in terms of impact and consequences are the ecological damages. Oil, especially in huge quantities, poses several problems for aquatic life and those living near the shore. First, because oil spreads quickly over the surface of the water, it covers a wide expanse of the sea, thereby extending its area of damage. This means that living organisms will have a difficult time trying to outrun it or get away from the affected region. Second, when oil mixes with the water, it changes composition and turns into a sticky substance. This poisons marine creatures, destroys the insulating properties of feathers and fur of marine birds and mammals, ruins nesting areas of aquatic organisms, and even kills or disrupts algae (the primary producer in the sea). Lastly, since spilled oil takes a long time to eliminate, it threatens aquatic species for generations.
Socio-economic oil spill damages
Socio-economic damages are considered by most as the easier kind of oil spill damages to solve because the government can intervene to solve these problems. These include the loss of livelihood, especially for fishing communities, and the decline in eco-tourism opportunities. Since oil spills directly threaten and reduce marine harvest, fishermen will definitely get less yields from the sea during spills. This is a serious condition, especially for those who rely on the catch for food and for business. At the same time, this will also deter visitors from going to beaches close to the spill. Not only will these places look unattractive, but they will also pose some serious health threats.