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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

RE: Wildlife Recovery Following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

By Paul D. Boehm


June 19, 2017
Monday PM

Dear Editor,

Just to make sure that your readers have accurate and balanced scientific information you should note that the USGS’s fine work on recovery of sea otters (summarized in Deep Sea Research) largely overstates the effect of the oil spill in delaying recovery of sea otters.

The oil spill had a devastating impact on sea otters during the first few years after the spill. But many years later (post 2000), their slow recovery likely had very little if anything to do with the “lingering oil” which was buried deeply in large boulder/cobble beaches where otters do not feed. Scientific articles, published in two of the finest journals on environmental and marine science (attached) show though specific investigation that otters were not and could not be exposed to this deeply buried oil. Where the oil was buried was not where the otters dug for food. Further evidence for this is the very fact that this so called “lingering”, deeply buried oil has changed little over the years and isolated remnants still remain on some (very few) beaches to this day; yet otters are not being affected.

As with other areas of investigation (e.g., herring declines) research by others shows that factors other than oil spills play a major role in many ecological changes after the initial, acute injury phase of a spill.

Paul D. Boehm, Ph.D.
Menlo Park, CA


Potential for Sea Otter Exposure to Remnants of Buried Oil From the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (PDF)

Are sea otters being exposed to subsurface intertidal oil residues from the Exxon Valdez oil spill? (PDF)


About: Paul D. Boehm Ph.D., is Group Vice President and Principal Scientist at Exponent, Inc.


Received June 14, 2017 - Published June 19, 2017

Related News Item:

Wildlife Recovery Following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill was Highly Variable Across Species - Thanks to a quarter-century of research and monitoring, scientists now know how different wildlife species were injured by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and how long it took for populations to recover. - More...
SitNews - June 13, 2017




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