The term “oil spill” usually refers to marine oil spills, when offshore rigs or underwater wells release petroleum hydrocarbon, used to make gasoline and diesel fuel, into the the ocean or coastal waters. Oil spills can also occur on land, when drilling rigs and tankers spill crude oil or by-products into the environment.

Oil spills are one of the most widely recognized forms of pollution, as a result of the disastrous consequences to the environment, the economy and society as a whole. Oil is difficult to clean, often taking weeks and months to recover and years for the impacted environment to regulate. Oil is dangerous to aquatic life, as it sticks to the fur and feather of marine mammals and birds. Oil can cause respiratory and reproductive issues in people and animals when exposed. Additionally, oil directly affects the water quality of groundwater when spilled on land and the oceans when spilled along coasts, impacting the marine life in the oceans.

Currently, oil spills are cleaned with a variety of methods. Skimming the oil off the surface of the water, using absorbents and chemical agents to break down and absorb oil and controlled burning are common methods for clean-up. Preventing oil spills is essential for protecting the environment, particularly along coastlines and oceans.

The Sea Grant in the Gulf of Mexico offers a variety of publications about oil spills, ranging from Fact Sheets to Outreach Bulletins.

Follow the link below to view the publications learn more about Sea Grant and oil spills.

Sea Grant in the Gulf of Mexico: 

NOAA Office of Response and Restoration Oil and Chemical Spill Resources: 

Hazardous Material Transport and Outreach Network (HAZMATON):

View some publications for Oil Spill Response below: 

Seafood Safety After an Oil Spill: When spill response managers determine that seafood may be affected, the next step is to assess whether seafood is tainted or contaminated to levels that could pose a risk to human health through consumption.

Job Aids for Spill Response: NOAA OR&R has prepared a number of job aids to help oil spill responders complete their response tasks. Use the links below to learn more about the job aids and to download electronic (PDF) versions to view online or print.