The Continued Impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The BP oil spill began on April 20, 2010 and 8 years later the area is still showing devastating effects.  NOAA, (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) considers it the largest marine oil spill in United States history and the U.S. government estimated a total of 210 million gallons were discharged during the spill.  The spill directly impacted about 68,000 square miles of ocean which is about the size of Oklahoma.  Over 8,332 wildlife species have been effected by the spill including mollusks, crustaceans, sea turtles and marine mammals and these creatures and habitats are still trying to recover.  Almost 10 million pounds of oily residue was removed from Louisiana shorelines between June 2011 and April 2013. Even after the cleanup, more than 200 miles still had an oily residue embedded in its marshlands.

Toxins in the spill area, such as methane, can potentially suffocate marine life and create ocean “dead zones” where oxygen is depleted.  Also many species of fish are at risk of cardiac arrest because these toxins are causing irregular heartbeats, even today. Damage to the seafloor has destroyed habitats and there is a higher rate of marine mammal stranding in the area.  Increased mortality rates and diminished reproductive success can have extensive long-term effects on marine mammal populations impacted by the spill.  Scientists are estimating tar balls could continue to wash up on shore for years and the spill could affect the marine life food chain for many generations to come. 

In a recent report on the long-term effects of the spill, researchers found:

  • Mortality rates for common bottlenose dolphins living in Barataria Bay, Louisiana were 8 percent higher and their reproductive success was 63 percent lower compared to other dolphin populations.
  • An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 birds died as a result of the spill.
  • Oil exposure caused heart failure in juvenile bluefin and yellowfin tunas, reduced swimming ability in juvenile mahi-mahi and caused gill tissue damage in killifish.
  • The oil plume caused bleaching and tissue loss in deep-water coral reefs over an area three times larger than Manhattan.
  • Endangered sea turtles migrating to the Gulf from Mexico, South America and West Africa died in the spill, demonstrating the global scale of impact.


Written By: Stefanie Schmidt

Edited By: Bob Stone

Infographic By: Thiffany Belda

*You can find this infographic on our resources page for downloading and sharing*



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