D. Rodriguez Vieites
- European Atlantic: the hottest oil spill hotspot worldwide
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- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
Oil spills caused by maritime transport of petroleum products are still an important source of ocean pollution, especially in main production areas and along major transport routes. We here provide a historical and geographic analysis of the major oil spills (>700 tonnes) since 1960. Spills were recorded from several key marine ecosystems and marine biodiversity hotspots. The past four decades have been characterized by an overall decrease in the number of accidents and tonnes of oil spilled in the sea, but this trend was less distinct in the European Atlantic area. Recent black tides from the Erika and Prestige vessels provided new evidence for the high risk of accidents of strong ecological impact in this area, which according to our analysis is historically the most important oil spill hotspot worldwide. The English channel and waters around Galicia in Spain were the areas with most accidents. Maritime transport in European Atlantic waters has been predicted to continue increasing. This suggests that, in addition to measures for increased traffic safety, deployment of emergency capacities in the spill hotspot areas is crucial for a sustainable conservation of sea resources and ecosystems.
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