BP has declared cleanup to be finished in most shoreline areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. However, that does not mean the oil is gone and the damage is done. The full effect of the spill on ocean life and the environment will likely continue to play out for many years.
Much of the spilled oil sank to the bottom of the ocean, killing corals and their inhabitants. The National Wildlife Federation reports finding affected corals as far as seven miles from the Macondo well. Coral reefs can take thousands of years to grow, if the area is ever viable for life again.
The NWF states “more than 8,000 birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals were found injured or dead in the six months after the spill”, with the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the world’s most endangered sea turtle, accounting for 500 of these casualties. Although efforts were made to relocate sea turtle nests to the Atlantic coast of Florida, it is unknown how many of these were Kemp’s ridleys, or how the loss will impact the species in the long run.
The oil spill occurred at the height of breeding season for many species of marine animals, killing the broods of some species completely and wiping out the majorities of others. The impact of this crippled generation of animals on the food chain in later years could disrupt the entire ecosystem from lack of food to sustain larger predators.