Exxon Valdez 20 Years Later

Series: Effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill linger

March 24 marked the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The effects are still obvious today. A series of blogs from senior editor Janet Raloff describes the continuing aftermath.


Black oystercatchers, which live in or near intertidal habitats, are highly vulnerable to oil pollution. Some were killed during the spill and their population is still recovering.
Black oystercatchers, which live in or near intertidal habitats, are highly vulnerable to oil pollution. Some were killed during the spill and their population is still recovering.
Exxon Valdez: tidal waters still troubled
Fifth in a series

Immediately following the Exxon Valdez oil spill , 20 years ago, environmental scientists were recruited to evaluate damage to ecosystems in and around Alaska’s Prince William Sound . And almost all describe being initially struck by a pall that had descended over normally raucous, vibrant marine communities. Read more .

The 25-year-old AT-1 male (foreground) isn't as physically developed as he should be, Matkin says. Behind junior: mom.
The 25-year-old AT-1 male (foreground) isn’t as physically developed as he should be, Matkin says. Behind junior: mom.
Exxon Valdez killed future for some killer whales
Fourth in a series

The Exxon Valdez spill dumped almost 11million gallons of crude oil into southern Alaska’s Prince William Sound , 20 years ago this week. Two groups of killer whales were present. And neither has recovered to their pre-spill abundance, Craig Matkin told me last week. Read more .

Sea otters frolic in Alaskan waters.
Sea otters frolic in Alaskan waters.
Otters and oil: problems remain
Third in a series
In the early days after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill , some 350 Alaskan sea otters were rescued from oil-laden waters and shipped or airlifted to treatment centers. Cleaning and rehabilitation saved 197; they were then released back into the wild. These were the lucky ones. Overall, an estimated one-in-five of Prince William Sound’s 14,000 otters died from spill-related poisonings. Read more .

On some beaches hit hard by the oil spill, even 20 years later residues remain just below the surface of intertidal beaches.
On some beaches hit hard by the oil spill, even 20 years later residues remain just below the surface of intertidal beaches.
Exxon Valdez oil lingers, as does its toxicity
Second in a series
A few years after the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident — still the biggest tanker spill in U.S. history — once-oil-blackened beaches in Alaska’s Prince William Sound again looked clean and healthy. Some scientists now worry that those looks have been deceiving. Read more .

Sea lions love hanging out on buoys. But after the spill, this one wore an oily coat.
Sea lions love hanging out on buoys. But after the spill, this one wore an oily coat.
America’s worst oil disaster still isn’t over
First in a series.

Exxon Valdez. Its name still evokes disaster. Tomorrow (March 24) marks the 20th anniversary of the ship’s grounding on Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Throughout the week, I’ll take a look at changes in its wake — including environmental impacts that linger from this, the nation’s biggest oil spill. Read more.


Janet Raloff

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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