Severely oiled surf scoter in intake room at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center during the Cosco Busan oil spill.
Effects of Oil on Wildlife
Even short-term exposure to petroleum products (such as light, volatile kerosene and jet fuel) can have dramatic impacts on wildlife. These products frequently cause significant burns, eye irritation, neurological signs, and lung damage from inhalation of fumes. Heavier products (such as crude oil) most obviously affect waterproofing, but may also cause physiological problems when ingested or absorbed through the skin. Additionally, crude oil may contain numerous uncharacterized and potentially dangerous compounds.
It is important to note that even non-toxic oils, such as vegetable oil and fish oil, can be extremely damaging to wildlife because they affect the physical structure of feathers and fur, causing a loss of waterproofing similar to petroleum oils.
Click on the links below below to learn some of the ways oil impacts seabirds and marine mammals. You may download a pdf version of this information here.