Offshore drilling refers to drilling for oil in the ocean. This drilling involves one of the technological breakthroughs that the world has ever made in recent years. From offshore drilling, many techniques have come up that have helped drill oil underneath water. Since the success of the first offshore drilling, the world has benefited much because it has drilled gallons of oil that have helped in industries and other important sectors.
Offshore drilling has had many advantages to the entire world because the world has drilled a lot of oil. Until the breakthrough of offshore drilling, people could not drill oil from the surface of the ocean. However, offshore drilling affects marine life in a detrimental way. This paper analyses the effect of offshore drilling on marine life.
Offshore drilling involves construction of processing facilities, industrial facilities, storage tanks and pipelines that can destroy wetlands, beaches, the ocean and coastal habitats. The well waste produced by the facilities used in offshore drilling facilities contains toxic metals, such as mercury, lead and cadmium. The drilling fuels also produce radioactive waste that affects marine life negatively. The organisms in the ocean accidentally feed on these toxic metals and radioactive waste that kills them once the waste accumulates in their body. These wastes also affect the reproductive life of marine organisms.
This means that the wastes have the capacity to reduce the number of marine organisms considerably. Oil wells used in offshore drilling generate millions of gallons of toxic waste, which pours into the ocean. These wastes release carcinogens that cause respiratory problems, for not only marine organisms but also animals in the land. This kills organisms in the oceans and other water bodies where offshore drilling happens. Therefore, offshore drilling affects marine life negatively because of the waste that it produces (Earle 16).
Oil companies that engage in offshore oil drilling often use seismic surveys to map rock formations on the floor of the sea. The seismic surveys use powerful air guns or powerful cannons that produce explosives under water. These tools used in seismic surveys produce sounds can measure up to thousands of miles from the origin of the blast. The sound produced by the air guns and cannons destroy the sensory organs of the sea and ocean creatures. Most fishes and other sea creatures use sound through their sensory organs to enable them navigate, find food, communicate and avoid predators.
Therefore, the sound produced by the tools used in seismic surveys can affect marine creatures in a detrimental way and even cause death of marine creatures. The impact from seismic survey blast kills many marine creatures and destroys their homes. The guns send strong shock across the seabed that decreases fish catch and lead to marine mammal stranding (Cicin-Sain and Knecht 169).
In addition, the infrastructure used to drill oil wells in the ocean has a devastating effect. It involves building canals across wetlands to transport oil. These canals cause erosion in the ocean or other water bodies. Together with the destruction of the marshland caused in drilling activities, the canals remove significant storm buffers. These contribute to the weakening of the sea and ocean surfaces making them prone to hurricanes and tsunamis.
The canals cause build up of petrochemical plants that contribute to the negative effects caused by offshore drilling. These have a direct impact on marine life because they distract the normal life of marine creatures. They push marine creatures away from the place they live. They force them to look for new environments separating marine creatures. Marine creatures can move to new environments not suitable for them. The new environment can cause stress for them and lead to their death.
Offshore drilling requires the use of drilling mud. Offshore drilling uses drilling muds as lubrication and coolants of the drill pipe and bit. The muds remove cuttings that come from the bottom of oil wells and help to prevent blowouts by acting as sealants. Offshore drilling makes use of different types of drilling mud. However, all drilling muds produce toxic chemicals that kill marine creatures.
Offshore drilling produces wastewater. Produced water is a fluid trapped underground in the drilling process then brought up with oil and gas later. Produced water accounts for almost twenty percent of waste that offshore drilling produces. Produced water has an oil content of about thirty or forty portions per million of produced water. For instance, two billion gallons of produced water that gets in to the Cook Inlet in Alaska each year has about seventy thousand gallons of oil. Oil has an effect of blocking fresh air from getting in the water. Therefore, if offshore drilling goes on for a long time it will threaten marine life completely because once fresh air cannot get into the ocean, and then marine creatures will die (Earle 79).
Offshore drilling produce oil rigs that attract seabirds at night because of their lighting and flaring and the fact that they attract fish around them. The oil rigs cause physical collisions between the seabirds and the rigs that cause bird mortality. This causes incineration from flaring that causes burning off, fossil fuels that produce black carbon harmful to marine life.
Black carbon that comes from the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climatic change because it warms the atmosphere, snow and ice. Oil rigs also add to the high mercury levels in fish. Therefore, offshore drilling has many effects to marine life not only by killing them but also by destroying their environment.
Offshore drilling causes oil spill in to the marine. When oil spills in the ocean, it spreads in the water depending on its composition and density. The oil slick that forms from the oil spill may remain cohesive and break up in rough seas. Wind force, waves and water currents force the oil to drift over the entire water surface that affects the open sea, coastal areas, marine and terrestrial habitats that affect marine life in the long run.
Oil spill that contain volatile organic compounds evaporates partially. The oil residue can disperse in the water and form a thick mousse with the water. Part of the oil spill may sink with particulate matter, and part of it congeals into sticky tar balls. If the oil spills reach the shoreline or coast, it interacts with sediments such as the sand, gravel, vegetation and terrestrial habitats causing erosion and contamination. Sand and gravel saturated with oil may fail to protect and nurture normal vegetation and population of substrate biomass.
Rocks and boulders coated with sticky residue from oil spills interfere with recreational advantages of shoreline and can be toxic to coastal and marine life. Oil spills contaminates fish and other food species and cause mass mortality of marine creatures. Oil poisons that come from oil spills destroy marine and coastal organic substrate that interrupt food chain that fish and other marine creatures depend on for food and reproductive success. Whales and dolphins suffer from skin lesions, hypothermia damaged airways, congested lungs, and organ dysfunction. All this come from oil spill ingestion. All these lead to death (Juneja 425).
Offshore drilling affects marine life negatively. Seismic surveys that use powerful tools, oil spills, produced water and oil rigs associated with offshore drilling have a devastating effect to sea and oceans creatures. The toxic elements that come from oil drilling processes affect the habitats and the normal functioning of the body organs of marine organisms that cause their death.