The Oil Spill Dilemma

Thousands of creatures on the seafloor of Russia’s Far East coast were found dead as a result of a toxic oil spill. The region is known for its vibrant marine life, where whales and seals are often seen, and is a popular spot for surfers. The initial cause for concern was when a group of surfers began experiencing eye problems and symptoms of food poisoning. Russia’s Investigative Committee said dead marine life had been washing up on the Kamchatka’s shores since September 1st

This did not seem to worry the Russian Minister of Environment, Dmitry Koblykin, as he initially downplayed the incident. He stated that there was no scale of disaster, and the conversation was promptly put to rest. It was only when scientists had started exploring the seabed that the scale of devastation became clear. 95% of bottom-dwelling organisms were dead. This begs the question: when, if ever, will environmental concerns be taken seriously? It seems that any sort of call-to-action only occurs after the damage has already been done. After a month of denying that anything was wrong, Koblykin vowed that whoever was responsible for this would be punished. It is important for leaders to take responsibility right away and set an example for other nations as well.

This was not the first time a massive oil spill occurred as President Putin declared a state of environmental emergency back in May 2020 when 21,000 tons of diesel oil was leaked into rivers flowing into the Arctic.

Massive oil spills in general are common occurrences. Right now, a vessel filled with 1.3 million barrels of crude oil is stranded 24 miles in the Gulf of Paria and has sparked fear due to pictures circulating online of its unstable condition. The pictures demonstrate that the vessel is tilted and taking on water—a disaster waiting to happen. If a spill does occur, it would damage the entire Gulf of Paria and could potentially spread out into the Caribbean Sea to the north. The effects from this spill could linger for decades, long after the clean-up process. There is a lot of information surrounding this oil spill, with some reports stating that the vessel is in stable condition while others stating the vessel is indeed deteriorating from lack of maintenance. Either way, it is essential to take extra precautions when it comes to a vessel this size because firmly believing there is no cause for alarm is what leads to disaster.

With the Kamchatka oil spill, if it wasn’t for independent researchers who thought it was necessary to examine Russia’s Far East coast, the spill could have continued to wreak havoc. Marine life such as seals, octopi, starfish, and sea urchins were found dead. These researchers listened to the 20 surfers who had noticed an unusual colour and smell coming from the waters. Listening to the locals proved to be valuable as they were the ones who had first-hand knowledge of their region and were early witnesses to the abnormalities. It just goes to show how important it is to involve and engage the surfing and fishing communities in environmental conservation.

If the cause of the leak was found to be from a passing ship, this would be the latest string of pollutions caused by poorly written UN laws that are in place to protect shipowners rather than address environmental concerns of nations. These laws have been the source of many shipping disasters and oil spills over the past decade. Pushing for excess amounts of profit should not be the reason why our oceans are dying. While it is important to protect ship owners, why must environmental concerns be disregarded? We should be pushing for sustainability and begin implementing the triple bottom line approach that focuses on environmental and social concerns as much as it does on profits. Laws, policies, programs need to be re-evaluated with the approach mentioned above so we can keep our oceans safe and create a healthier world in which to live.

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