Sources of oil pollution

Each decade since the war, there have been dramatic instances of gross oil fouling of long stretches of coastline from tanker accidents - notably the wreck of the Torrey Canyon in 1967 fouling beaches in Cornwall and Brittany; the Amoco Cadiz in 1978 fouling the north Brittany coast; the Exxon Valdez in 1989 affecting beaches in Prince William Sound, Alaska; the deliberate release of oil into the Arabian Gulf during the 1991 Gulf War and most recently, in 1996, the Sea Empress which oiled shores in Pembrokeshire including Skomer marine nature reserve. These events have been widely publicized and attention drawn not only to the damage done to amenities but also to the destruction of tens of thousands of seabirds and other marine life, and possible devastation of local fisheries, fish nursery areas and shellfish beds.

However, although such accidents are dramatic, far more oil enters the marine environment from other less publicized sources (Table 10.4). The figures in such estimates must of necessity be very approximate, but it can clearly be seen that pollution from domestic and industrial discharges easily exceeds that from tanker accidents.

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