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Immediate impact of the 'Exxon Valdez' oil spill on marine birds

January 1, 1990

On 24 March 1989, the oil tanker 'Exxon Valdez' spilled 260,000 barrels of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Oil eventually drifted over $30,000\ {\rm km}^{2}$ of coastal and offshore waters occupied by approximately one million marine birds. More than 30,000 dead birds of 90 species were retrieved from polluted areas by 1 August 1989. Of those identified, murres (74%), other alcids (7.0%), and sea ducks (5.3%) suffered the highest mortality from oil, and most (88%) birds were killed outside of Prince William Sound. A colony of 129,000 murres at the Barren Islands was probably devastated. Another 7,000 birds were retrieved between 1 August and 13 October, but most of those birds appeared to have died from natural causes. This later die-off was composed largely of shearwaters and other procellariids (51%), gulls (22%), and puffins (14%). Based on aerial and ship-based surveys for populations at risk, and extrapolating from the number of dead birds recovered, we estimate that the total kill from oil pollution was from 100,000 to 300,000 birds.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1990
Title Immediate impact of the 'Exxon Valdez' oil spill on marine birds
DOI 10.2307/4087623
Authors John F. Piatt, Calvin J. Lensink, William Butler, Marshal Kendziorek, David R. Nysewander
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Auk
Index ID 70185105
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center

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