The Black Tide

in Project HOPE9 months ago




A vital issue for those who study the natural sciences or are involved in environmental activism is pollution and biological devastation. Many times the approach they convey to us is purely capitalist and they tell us how expensive the event and its recovery is. In the first topic, pollution, events related to oil pollution are presented. Accidental spills or sabotage is a spill of oil or its derivatives in ecosystems, which when falling on a land or in the hydrosphere, introduce an abiotic element with which it affects the structures or functioning of these affected ecosystems.

When the spill reaches the hydrosphere (river, lagoon, lake, sea, ocean) it is called "Black Tide". Oil is a set of oily materials that does not combine with water, so it floats and expands over long distances. The microbiota (plankton) of the water body affected by the oil slick, can be trapped in the oily mass or suffer from intoxication of the hydrocarbon compounds, persistent or not. Food chains are affected because plankton is part of the base of these chains, even humanity can be affected because it is the apex of the chains when we eat "products of the sea".

In its presentation, the black tide does not let the sun's rays penetrate and its persistence thus undermines the processes of phytoplankton and algae photosynthesis. Generally, the body of water tries to "shake off" the oil slick, sending it to the coast. The coastal community, composed of, among others, insects, mollusks, annelids, crustaceans, algae, mangroves, creeping flora, shorebirds, and humanity, can be a victim of the event at the very moment the oil material is directly affected. The oil "sticks" to the living being, it does not let it move, nor does it allow it to displace (walk, swim or fly) properly and on the other hand it can obstruct the ground so that a new plant can develop.

Although our Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela does not figure in the major oil spill disasters, our Lake Maracaibo has felt an almost constant load of oil spills as menes (spontaneous exit of oil from the pit to the surface) on land or on the lake floor, by accident of the extraction and transport industry by oil pipeline (since one hundred years) or by sabotage (blowing up of oil pipelines in Colombia in the binational basin of the Catatumbo River and the oil sabotages carried out by the striking dissidents in 2002-2003). It can be said that the biological community of Lake Maracaibo is resilient to the oil spill.

Also in Venezuela, we currently have an oil spill as a consequence of an accident under investigation, at the beginning of August, from the coastal Refinery El Palito that allowed oil to reach the Caribbean Sea, even affecting the Morrocoy Park, about forty kilometers from the source, which already has the intensive tourist load. Since August 3, 2020, the Contingency Plan for Oil Spills was activated with the participation of the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the Ministry of the Popular Power for Ecosocialism (former Ministry of the Environment), the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC), the Bolivarian Armed Forces represented by the Bolivarian National Militia, the Tourist Service Providers, Fishermen, and Volunteers.

The maritime transport of oil moves about two billion tons of crude oil around the planet and is regulated through the United Nations Organization and its specialized agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This institution regulates the construction and operation of oil transport ships. In other words, it is the authority that has existed since 1948.

Recently on July 25, 2020, a Japanese ship, the MV Wakashio, about three hundred meters long, ran aground on a coral reef off the Blue Bay Marine Park in the territory of Mauritius, an island state east of Madagascar. From the beginning it caused an oil spill in the waters of the Indian Ocean. The oil spill intensified when it broke in two on August 15, 2020. According to the
news the tide affects about twenty kilometers with an estimated more than one thousand tons of oil in the Indian Ocean. Three thousand tons of crude oil are still on board the ship, which is the target of the plans to discharge it to a safe transport.

It is interesting that we now speak of tons of crude oil, but when the oil trade began in the nineteenth century, it was carried on any ship transported in barrels. In that same century, oil tankers began to be built. The first ship or oil tanker was named Gluckauf, which was built in 1886 and accidentally ran aground off New York, producing the First Oil Tide by accident of oil tankers.

After the Second World War, the "T2 Tanker" appeared with a dead weight of sixteen thousand four hundred tons with forty-five crew members. These ships in the eighties gave way to the ships of two hundred thousand tons with twenty-four crew members. After so much tonnage in very long ships, the trend is to build ships is to return to these two hundred thousand ton ships with three hundred meters in length.

It is estimated that more than five thousand tons of crude oil have been spilled in oil tanker accidents. The Gulf of Mexico is the one that has given more news of Black Tides, more than two hundred and fifty in the last fifty years. It is followed by the Atlantic Coast of the United States, the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf, the North Sea, Japan, the Baltic Sea, the United Kingdom and the English Channel, Singapore and Malaysia, France and the Iberian Peninsula, closing with Korea. Half of the causes of spills are during loading and unloading operations, during supply and others. But more than forty percent of the oil spill is caused by grounding, sinking, explosions, fire, and collisions.

The handling of oil, especially in transportation operations, is of utmost care and any changes in extraction, transportation by pipeline or by sea. We do not have, nor do we count for the immediate future, the sustainable substitution of oil as an energy source. However, we do have regulatory pillars to avoid the Black Tides.

The efforts of environmental organizations and activists, the scientific development of bioremediation, the social environmental monitoring, the growing interest in the environmental issue, the development of environmental institutions and control of international and national oil activities, the academic professionalization of environmental sciences, in addition to the development of socio-environmental responsibility of companies, can help reduce the Black Tide.

Bibliographic References


González-Solis, Alicia. Torruco, Daniel. FAUNA AND INTERMAREAL FLORA OF THE ROQUE COAST OF QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO. Journal of Tropical Biology. Volume 63, Number 4. 2015. University of Costa Rica.

Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy. Edition of the Tricentenary. Updated in 2019. Htpp://

Bermudez Briñez, Nilda.The Oil Spills in Lake Maracaibo between 1922 and 1928 Htpp://