Jump to main content.

Contact Us

Sensitivity of Marine Habitats

The marine environment is made up of complex interrelations between plant and animal species and their physical environment. Harm to the physical environment will often lead to harm for one or more species in a food chain, which may lead to damage for other species further up the chain. Where an organism spends most of its time—in open water, near coastal areas, or on the shoreline—will determine the effects an oil spill is likely to have on that organism.

In open water, marine organisms such as fish and whales have the ability to swim away from a spill by going deeper in the water or further out to sea, reducing the likelihood that they will be harmed by even a major spill. Marine animals that generally live closer to shore, such as turtles, seals, and dolphins, risk contamination by oil that washes onto beaches or by consuming oil-contaminated prey. In shallow waters, oil may harm sea grasses and kelp beds that are used for food, shelter, and nesting sites by many different species.

Spilled oil and certain cleanup operations can threaten different types of marine habitats in different ways.

Contact the Emergency Response webmaster to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem.

Jump to main content.