Millions of gallons of toxic fracking chemicals are dumped into the ocean each year.
Dirty energy endangers our ocean in every phase of its extraction, transportation, and usage. Our historic dependency on limited fuel sources benefits a few at the cost of everyone else.
Even before oil and gas can be extracted, the fossil fuel industry poses a serious threat to ocean animals. Seismic airgun blasting, an incredibly dangerous and loud process used to locate oil and gas reserves below the seafloor, has essentially created an acoustic smog throughout the ocean. Since water amplifies and echoes any sound ten fold, the growing cacophony from the fossil fuel industry has become dangerously deafening. For instance, dolphins, whales, and most other marine mammals communicate, hunt, and orient themselves through sound— for many, the ability to hear is more important for social and reproductive success than the ability to see. Seismic airgun blasting is proving to be crippling for marine mammal populations, undermining all chances of recovery. Similarly, coral larvae find their way back home by swimming towards the sound of the bustling reef. The deafening cannon blasts block out these essential auditory cues, resulting in more and more larvae dying before they can reach its reef home. The noise does not stop when oil and gas reserves are found, for the drilling and extraction process is equally loud, dangerous, and overall destructive.
As global demand for dirty energy increases, the likelihood of accidents and spills grows. In the four year period 2010-2014, there were 35 spills of at least 7 tonnes across the world— undoubtedly many more that went unreported. Oil pollution, whether in coastal or open waters, is near impossible to fully clean up, inherently ensuring long-lasting environmental consequences. Crude oil spilled during the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster can still be found along the Prince William Sound. Who knows how long it will take to recover (if that’s even possible) from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster? Currents and winds circulate oil and gas pollution throughout the world’s ocean, so no spill is ever really contained. Tides push globs of oil onto beaches where it poisons nesting birds and suffocates sea turtle hatchlings and other burrowing animals. Depending on the sediment type, beaches can remain polluted by fossil fuel toxins long after clean-up activities have ended. Even the chemical dispersants used to minimize potential shoreline impacts can negatively affect exposed sea life. Marine mammals and sea turtles, who must regularly surface to breathe, are at greater risk of exposure to toxic oil slicks. Oil spills also hinder the breathing of sharks and rays, clogging their gills and potentially suffocating them. Animals that depend on fur to keep warm, such as sea otters and polar bears, are often the most immediately impacted by pollution, many dying from hypothermia after their coat is covered in oil. Even if ocean creatures manage to avoid directly swimming in oil slicks, they are still impacted by spills as toxins quickly accumulate in their bodies from consuming contaminated prey— toxins which eventually end up on our plate.