Remove or clean-up oil pollution following a spill
Overall effectiveness category Unknown effectiveness (limited evidence)
Number of studies: 1
Background information and definitions
Oil spills can be disastrous to marine life, including subtidal benthic invertebrates (White et al. 2012). The control and remediation of oil spills can be undertaken in a multitude of ways: for instance by using booms (floating barriers that contain a spill to a delimited zone) and skimmers (devices that collect and remove oil) to remove oil pollution from the surface of the water, using dispersants that break oil into small droplets (Hartwick et al. 1982), using sorbents, or using controlled burning of the oil (Al-Majed et al. 2012). Different methods have different outcomes and side-effects, but when successful may potentially reduce the risks of toxicity and direct harm to subtidal benthic invertebrates.
Evidence for related interventions is summarised under “Threat: Pollution – Use double hulls to prevent oil spills” and “Establish pollution emergency plans”.
Al-Majed A.A., Adebayo A.R. & Hossain M.E. (2012) A sustainable approach to controlling oil spills. Journal of Environmental Management, 113, 213–227.
Hartwick E.B., Wu R.S.S. & Parker D.B. (1982) Effects of a crude oil and an oil dispersant (Corexit 9527) on populations of the littleneck clam (Protothaca staminea). Marine Environmental Research, 6, 291–306.
White H.K., Hsing P.Y., Cho W., Shank T.M., Cordes E.E., Quattrini A.M., Nelson R.K., Camilli R., Demopoulos A.W., German C.R. & Brooks J.M. (2012) Impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep-water coral community in the Gulf of Mexico. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, 20303–20308.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 1983 in one area of rocky coastline in the northern Baltic Proper, Sweden (Ganning et al. 1983) found that high pressure hot water shore cleaning technique following an oil spill tended to increase crude oil content of blue mussels Mytilus edulis. Results were not statistically tested. After three days, petroleum hydrocarbon content (crude oil) appeared to have increased in mussels from 40 µg/g to 533–657 µg/g, and decreased by only approximately 20–45% (to 290–530 µg/g) after two weeks. These levels tended to be higher than in mussels from an adjacent uncleaned contaminated site (43 µg/g) and mussels from a non-contaminated site (30 µg/g). In summer 1980, crude oil was experimentally spilled on the shore and cleaned. The “cleaned” sea area directly off the shore was fenced with booms, and sorption agents used on the sea surface. Blue mussels (>30 mm in length) collected from a non-contaminated site were placed in 11 net bags (12/bag). A week before cleaning, nine bags were placed within the fenced area, one bag at an uncleaned contaminated site, and one bag at the non-contaminated site, all at 0.5 m depth. One fenced bag was retrieved before cleaning. Three days after cleaning, the bag from the uncleaned contaminated site was retrieved, as well as six bags from the cleaned area. After two weeks, all remaining bags were retrieved. The crude oil content of mussels was measured.Study and other actions tested