Here Are Some of the First Images of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill

by Owen James Burke


The resulting oil slick could stretch as long as 9 miles, so far. Photo: Brian van der Brug/LA Times.

On Tuesday, May 19th, an oil pipeline was found leaking near Refugio State Beach just north of Santa Barbara. The sheen is reportedly about 9 miles long and 50 meters wide, and while initial reports stated that the estimated leakage was about 21,000 gallons, a more recent article by the LA Times suggests that the amount of oil released by Texas oil company Plains All American Pipeline could be more in the realm of 105,000 gallons.


A pelican glides over one of Santa Barbara’s now oil-choked kelp beds. Photo: Brian van der Brug/LA Times.

Santa Barbara is no stranger to oil spills, and in 1969 along the same coastline, the county experienced what was then the nation’s worst coastal oil spill in history, which some say prompted the American environmental movement. Still, today, the cleanup routine is much the same as it was then: a quick scramble to gather what can be contained and let the media coverage fade until all that’s left are stray, indistinguishable clumps of tar that cling to the bottoms of our feet.


Few lifeforms stand much chance against the slick. Photo: RJ Morabito.


Unfortunately, this spill impacts one of California’s most biodiverse marine ecosystems. Above are a few of the immediate victims. Photo: Al Seib/LA Times.


Photo: Al Seib/LA Times.

Meanwhile in the United States’ southeast, lawmakers and oil and natural gas tycoons are excitedly campaigning and licking their chops as they await the go-ahead to probe the subsea crust of the Atlantic. Read Scuttlefish contributor Carolyn Sotka’s guides (parts I & II) to offshore drilling in the Southeast Atlantic to find out what you need to know, and how you can help keep the southeast’s shoreline pristine.

If you should happen to come across any affected wildlife, report to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network at (805) 681-1080 or the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center at (805) 687-3255. Read the LA Times for more. -OJB

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