FLVS Marine Science Assignment – 7.03 Honors Resources in the Abyss

Offshore Drilling is Destroying Our Oceans. Why Aren’t We Stopping it?   


All over the world, oil companies like Shell, Exxon, British Petroleum, and many others are pumping oil out of the earth’s crust, using offshore oil platforms in our oceans. There are approximately 241 platforms or rigs in U.S. waters alone as of 2015, and thousands more worldwide. Offshore oil drilling is a practice that is used all over the world, to extract oil from the earth for global consumption. However, all this drilling, pumping, refining, and shipping of oil affects our marine ecosystems. Offshore drilling is dangerous for our planet’s delicate marine estuaries, and the marine environment as a whole. When we put the pros and cons of offshore drilling to the test, the cons far outweighed the pros.

Proponents of offshore drilling cite several reasons to justify drilling offshore. They say it provides us with an avenue of “self-reliance” or independence from the Middle Eastern oil monopoly. Another justification for offshore drilling is that offshore drilling “creates many jobs for people, who will then spend more money from their wages in the local community. . . ” Lastly, offshore drilling supposedly makes gas prices go down by adding extra oil to the world oil supply.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, Presidential and Congressional actions sanctioning drilling in areas previously closed to oil and gas drilling, “would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production … before 2030.” Furthermore, the U.S. DOE goes on to say that, “Because oil prices are determined on the international market … any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.” These statements indicate that offshore drilling will not lower energy costs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, or create millions of new jobs. We must act now to become less dependent on oil, and instead increase our supply of renewable and sustainable energy sources, with a lesser impact on the marine environment.

There are several important facts that prove that offshore oil drilling is hazardous for our marine environment. First of all the harsh offshore environments pose many engineering challenges to offshore drilling equipment, insuring that weak points in the equipment going from the ocean’s surface to the ocean floor are inevitable. In the case that a spill does occur, hundreds of miles of coastline estuaries, beaches and ocean are then left directly in harm’s way. For example during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita there were 125 spills from platforms, rigs, and pipelines on the ocean’s Outer Continental Shelf, releasing almost 685,000 gallons of petroleum products. Including the land-based infrastructure that supports offshore drilling, the damage from these two hurricanes totaled 595 spills releasing millions of gallons of oil. In addition to environmental damage from oil spills, the routine operations associated with offshore drilling produce many toxic wastes and other forms of pollution. For example, each drill well generates tens of thousands of gallons of waste in the form of drilling muds (materials used to lubricate drill bits and maintain pressure) and cuttings. An average oil and gas exploration well spews roughly 50 tons of nitrogen oxides, 13 tons of carbon monoxide, 6 tons of sulfur oxides, and 5 tons of volatile organic chemicals.

Consequently offshore drilling has proven to be detrimental to our marine environments all over the world. First and foremost, the environmental effects of offshore drilling are definitely unsafe, for our environment, and for our oceans well being. Offshore drilling also spews tons of carbon into our atmosphere unremittingly, and whether you believe in global warming or not, you know that pouring tons of carbon into our atmosphere cannot be good. Expanded offshore drilling poses the risk of oil spills ruining our beaches from Florida to Maine and along the Pacific Coast, bringing harm to those who live, work, and vacation along the coasts, as well as harming habitats critical to plants and animals. For instance contamination from the massive 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill reached shorelines nearly 600 miles away. That is the equivalent of an oil spill on the East Coast, reaching from Massachusetts to North Carolina. An oil spill of that magnitude would not only effect our entire east coast, but also the Atlantic Ocean.

All these devastating effects that offshore oil drilling have on our beautiful oceans are long lasting. They are not able to just be washed away, or cleaned up instantaneously. Scientists investigating the long-term impacts of the Exxon Valdez spill estimated that nearly 20,000 gallons of oil from that spill remain in Prince William Sound, 26 years later, continuing to harm threatened and endangered species, and undermine their recovery. The U.S. DOE’s research is conclusive. It is apparent that offshore drilling does not decrease gas prices, it does not create more jobs, and it does not enable us to be more “self-reliant” in the global oil economy. Finally not only are the claims in favor of offshore drilling false, but we can see that offshore drilling is fatal to our global marine environment. Any efforts made to stop offshore drilling, or at least make it safer, would have a positive effect on our marine environment, on a global level.



Natural Resources Defense Council: Domestic Oil Drilling; still not a solution to rising gas prices



Vision Launch: Pros and Cons of Offshore Drilling



National Resources Defense Council: Protecting Our Ocean and Coastal Economies: Avoid Unnecessary Risks from Offshore Drilling



Live Science: Why is Offshore Drilling so Dangerous? May 28, 2010



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Biscayne Bay: A Biological Research Paper

Biscayne Bay is an amazing ecosystem,and home to hundreds of native species, including wildlife, aquatic life and foliage. I am writing this article for my Biology Class, so the following topics and questions will be explored.

  • The location of the body of water of my choice
  • A description of the geography surrounding this body of water
  • The effects of sunlight on the aquatic life inhabiting this body of water
  • The depths and salinity of this body of water and how this shapes the types of aquatic life present
  • The effects of seasonal changes to water temperatures and aquatic life in this body of water
  • Predictions or current research on the effects of climate change to this body of water

I have chosen this body of water, because A) I lived on Biscayne Bay with my family for about 5 years(I consider it my home town), and B) and it’s so beautifully and ecologically diverse, when it comes to species that it is home to and such 😀

As seen from this image, Biscayne Bay is located just north of Card Sound, which is on the west side of the bottom of the state of Florida. Spanning from North Bay, Dumfoundling Bay,  extending south to the Rickenbacker Causeway. Biscayne Bay is just to the east of the beautiful Bahaman Islands. To the immediate south is the country of Cuba, and the Caribbean Sea. Biscayne Bay is at the heart of Miami. With an area of approx. 429 square miles(1,110 km2), and being a total of 35 miles long and up to 8 miles wide, it is Miami’s largest and most major body of water, as well as home to Florida’s biggest port of call.

The effects of sunlight directly on aquatic life in Biscayne Bay, I would say is very great. As a body of water in Florida, Biscayne Bay naturally gets a lot of sunlight, all throughout the year. But the effect of it, well that is a little bit difficult. I would guess that it greatly affects the aquatic life there in the bay largely by providing the necessary light required for corrals and other such water foliage to grow, thus providing ample habitat for aquatic life in the Bay area.

In shallow areas, Biscayne Bay is about 1 to 10 feet deep. And, at its deepest point, Biscayne Bay is 30 to 40 feet in depth; in areas that dredging has occurred. Dredging in the Bay area has been done several times for the purpose of creating enough depth for large cargo and cruise ships to enter and depart the grand port of Miami. The salinity level of Biscayne Bay, changes daily, so therefore an exact level is not able to be obtained. “1The North Bay of the Biscayne Bay lies between Miami Beach Barrier Island and Miami on the mainland. It has been severely affected over the last century by raw sewage releases, urban runoff, shoreline bulk heading, dredging, and the creation of artificial islands and the loss of natural fresh water flow into the bay. However, water quality has steadily improved since regular monitoring began in 1979. North Bay accounts for only 10% of the water area of the bay.”

Local fish species, inhabiting Biscayne Bay National Park's coral reefs

Local fish species, inhabiting Biscayne Bay National Park’s coral reefs

Seasonal changes and temperatures in Biscayne Bay have seen more and more seemingly adverse effects on the local aquatic life, in recent years.  During the winter, the water has seen a monumental low, in water temperatures. With water temperatures dropping father than they have ever before, aquatic life in the local area has been experiences large losses of manatee and other local fish breeds, due to the freezing temperatures in the Bay. But with these conditions only lasting for a few weeks, every year, the local populations of aquatic life has not been greatly affected, in adverse ways. During the spring months, the water is very warm, at subtropic temperatures, promoting excellent breeding grounds for hundreds of fish and various other marine life. In the summer, of course, the water is perfect for fish and marine life of all kinds.

A Lion fish, an invasive species, in Biscayne Bay National Park.

A Lion fish, an invasive species, in Biscayne Bay National Park.

As stated in an article by Wide Open Spaces, ” 2Each year, the [Biscayne Bay National] park’s diverse fish species attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, many of them boaters. Environmentalists argue that anglers who fish the bay from boats are causing the most damage to the environment and fish stocks.” The article goes on to quote Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association who states 3” ‘I’m pretty furious that the National Park Service is kowtowing to the anglers’ interests, We’re not anti-hunting or anti-fishing, but it’s well acknowledged that the fish stocks in Biscayne Bay are [being] heavily depleted, the coral reefs are in terrible shape, and this [proposed] (no fishing zone) was a solution.” So, as we can see here, the major threat to the Bay area’s environment and ecosystem is a large problem with over fishing.

According to recent observations, the climates changes have not had any large effects on Biscayne Bay. And, many recent predictions say that, that it will not affect the Bay greatly, if at all. Though the Bay has seen recent changes in coastline, such changes have not been attributed to climate change, but rather to water erosion caused by recent hurricanes and tropical storms, that have come through the area.

Having lived on Biscayne Bay, for about 5 years, while I was younger, I got to experience first hand one of the most beautiful, and amazing estuaries on the whole east coast of the United States. Not only is Biscayne Bay so ecologically diverse and home to so many of our native exotic species here in the U.S.A., but it is also, a great place for sailing and water sports of any kind.

Biscayne Bay is so ideal for sailing that it is the number one place that the U.S. Olympic Sailing team comes to train, any time of the year, but mostly in the winter time. In the winter, the weather is the warmest of all the choice sailing spots around the U.S., and as always Biscayne Bay has a great sailing wind always blowing in from offshore. With winds ranging from 3 – 5 knots, when it’s calm out, to about 10 – 15 knots on a really gusty day, the sailing on the Bay is always challenging and fun. Of course the sun is always shining, in the mornings and then around noon to early afternoon, the weather can change almost instantly to rainy and miniature hurricane like, but it is short lived. By about 3 or so in the afternoon, usually it is back to sunny and beautiful, finishing off with the most beautiful sunsets you could ever ask for.

Another advantage Biscayne Bay has is its close proximity, with the Gulf Stream, making it an excellent place for fishing of all kinds. From deep water fishing, to reef fishing, flats fishing and just about everything in between, the Bay is an ideal spot for all anglers.

I hope that through our efforts, to conserve and protect Florida’s Biscayne Bay, and all its amazing wildlife, aquatic life, and coral reefs, many more animal species will be able to call the Bay home. I also hope that through our extended efforts, we may be able to preserve this beautiful estuary for the enjoyment of all peoples for many more years to come. May we all, seek to preserve, protect and defend the habitats that our wonderful Creator has granted us, to inhabit.

References: 1 Wikipedia: Biscayne Bay http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biscayne_Bay2  &3Wide Open Spaces : Trouble in Florida’s Biscayne Bay National Park http://www.wideopenspaces.com/anglers-environmentalists-odds-fishing-biscayne-natl-par/

Photo Credits: Wide Open Spaces http://www.wideopenspaces.com/anglers-environmentalists-odds-fishing-biscayne-natl-par/ .  Google Biscayne Bay National Park http://bit.ly/1DwOsIn

” Carolina,

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Biscayne Bay! Your presentation is complete and I can tell that you spent a lot of time and effort in this. Very well done. Your grade is 40/40. A+

Let me know if you need help.

Keep smiling!

Mrs. Josephine Turingan (Biology Teacher) ”
09/25/14 9:41 AM

It always makes me feel so good, when I get an awesome grade from my Biology Teacher. Mrs. Turingan you ROCK!!!! Keep up the awesome work! 🙂Thanks for all you do, for your many FLVS Students 😀