Information for Action Contact Details:
Mail address: P O Box 245 6906 North Perth, WA, Australia
E-mail: Information for Action is a non profit environmental organization committed to environmental change in our global community. Work on the website began in 1999 by President Rowland Benjamin and is maintained by a group of talented volunteers.

Oil Spills


Wales horses and oil spills. Image by Information for Action, a website for conservation and environmental issues offering solutions

One of the most publicized and visual ways that the use of energy can be seen to damage the environment is through oil spills. Far too regularly TV and newspapers shows banked vessels with thousands of gallons of crude oil or petroleum pouring into the world’s oceans.

At any given time, there are 150 oil rigs and 5000 ships in operation in the North Sea, and there are thousands of oil rigs and hundreds of thousands of ships operating worldwide. And as the number of oil rigs and ships operating in the world has been increasing there has been a corresponding increase in number of oil spills. There has also been an increase in deliberate illegal discharges of oil around the world's coastlines. Noxious liquid substances and waste is frequently dumped into seas and oceans from oil rigs and ships.

Due to inadequate funding for policing the coast, few ships are caught discharging illegally, and prosecuted. Accidents resulting in serious ecological disasters have been occurring too frequently.

Fish, birds and mammals covered in the thick crude slime succumb to a slow agonizing death. Coastal ecosystems and pristine beaches can be destroyed. Although discharges are illegal, there is such inadequate funding for policing the coast that few ships are caught and prosecuted. In such cases the local community often bears the brunt of the clean up costs.

What you can do

Ensure cars and boats are free from leaks and dispose of oil in an environmentally friendly way, not down the drain. The sea is not a dumping ground for waste products.

Once oil has reached the waterways, there are ways of cleaning it up. Help the environment by reporting any spills immediately and volunteering in the clean up effort. Various tools are used in cleaning oil spills:

  • Booms (floating oil barriers) surrounding the spill preventing further dispersal across the surface of the water. However, this does not stop particles sinking to the sea bed.

  • Skimmer boats take the oil from the surface.

  • Sorbents are large sponges used to soak up the oil.

  • Chemicals are used to break down the oil, although, some agents can cause more harm than good.

  • Burning off oil from the surface can clear freshly spilled oil. Although this will cause air pollution, the effects may be less than that of the oil floating on the water surface.

  • Beaches can be washed off with hoses.

  • Vacuum vehicles can suck oil from the beaches of the surface of the sea.

  • Sand and stones that are slightly affected can be cleaned naturally by the ocean and equipment is used to transport affected material to the ocean.

  • Often the best method of cleaning affected land is by hand as people can picks out specifically affected areas to remove oil without damaging unaffected land. People can get to areas that equipment often can’t reach.

Use our lobbying service to write a letter or email your government and ask them to take action.

Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper about your concerns.

Cleaning Oiled Wildlife

Kirigini gorge and oil spills. Image by Information for Action, a website for conservation and environmental issues offering solutions

Veterinary science is advanced enough to be able to provide animals affected by oil with a reasonable chance of survival. If a wild animal allows itself to be caught, it must be very ill and probably poisoned, hungry, exhausted and in shock. If it is to have chance of survival these problems needs to be treated before cleaning can start. Volunteers can become trained in helping the treatment of these animals.

Unfortunately any human intervention will disturb the environment. Nature will try it’s best to rid itself of oil pollution and eventually will manage to complete the task but without human intervention this will take many, many years. A remote area in Southern America was affected by a spill in 1974 and no clean up programme was implemented. 25 years later patches of residue can still be seen covering the rocks.


Oil Spills - History

Oil Spills - Causes

Oil Spills - Costs

Oil Spills - Solutions


Search our database for the contact details of organizations that directly address Oil spills

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