10th Anniversary Tomorrow: Aftermath of Exxon Valdez Worse on Wildlife Than Official Reports

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(03/23/1999) - To mark the 10th anniversary of the March 24, 1989, Exxon Valdez tanker oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound, Defenders of Wildlife's latest magazine issue and a new report focus on the disastrous effects of 11 million gallons of oil that blackened 1,500 miles of shoreline -- as well as on how to prevent "the next Valdez."

Alaskan marine biologist Riki Ott reports in the Spring 1999 Defenders Magazine that the aftermath of the oil spill has been even worse than recently reported by the state-federal oil spill trustee council.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council's official report lists only 2 of twenty-eight adversely impacted species as fully recovered-- the bald eagle and river otter. Ott observes that the report shows "surprising optimism" in listing a number of others as "recovering." She notes that despite the optimistic tone of trustee council findings, the council report lists a number of species as "not recovering." Others, including deer, sea lions, dozens of species of shorebirds and perching birds, Dungeness crabs and shrimp were not even studied.

"Exxon scientists have proclaimed that Prince William Sound recovered rapidly, that wildlife is thriving . . . . This vision of corporate virtual reality, still widely spun in a decade-long public relations campaign, is easily debunked by anyone who visits the sound's remote beaches or talks with the fishermen and Natives who live and fish in oil-impacted areas," Ott emphasizes. She herself has fished commercially in Cordova, Alaska, for ten years. Reduced numbers of salmon and herring after the oil spill resulted from genetic damage and functional sterility, she concludes. Species that prey on the fish, such as harbor seals and seabirds, subsequently declined.

Preventing any recurrences of the disaster is the focus of Preventing the Next Valdez, a report produced by the Alaska Wilderness League in conjunction with Defenders of Wildlife, Free the Planet, the Sierra Club and the state PIRGs.

Defenders and the other groups releasing this report call for:

  • Permanent protection of the 1.5-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.
  • A permanent moratorium on leasing in the refuge.
  • Enforcement of the double-hull tanker requirement of the Oil Spill Pollution Act.
  • Permanent protection of Teshekpuk Lake, the Colville River and other environmentally sensitive areas within the National Petroleum Reserve.
  • Cancellation of Northstar and other development projects that require undersea pipelines.
  • Establishment of a presidential commission to review the safety of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
  • Establishment of a Citizens Advisory Council as a watchdog.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270