In his recent B.C. Views column (“Two governments passed over northern ferries,” March 29), Tom Fletcher downplays the potential ecological effects of a serious oil spill, stating that “Among the lessons from the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 was the power of nature to break down and dissipate spilled oil, even the thick crude that spilled when that huge tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound off the Alaska coast.”
Sadly, Fletcher’s comment is misleading, implying as it does that time heals all wounds even when it comes to catastrophic oil spills. An emerging understanding of the ecological and toxicological effects of oil exposure unfortunately indicates that “nature” can be dramatically affected by oil spills over the long- as well as the short-term, dissipated oil notwithstanding.
A recent paper in the international journal Science (Peterson et al. 2003, pp. 2082-2086) summarizes the results of more than a decade’s worth of studies in Prince William Sound and concludes that “in the Alaskan coastal ecosystem, unexpected persistence of toxic subsurface oil and chronic exposures, even at sublethal levels, have continued to affect wildlife.”
Fletcher’s article appeared as an opinion column, but even opinion columns ought to be based in fact and it is irresponsible to perpetuate misinformation on such an important and topical subject.