The Exxon Valdez oil spill was a precedent‐setting event because of the seemingly limitless resources invested in environmental cleanup, rehabilitation of oiled wildlife, and a host of related post‐spill activities. Sea otters were the centerpiece of rehabilitation efforts, in large part because of their vulnerability, local abundance, and public appeal. In an earlier commentary I questioned whether this effort was in the best interest of conservation ( Estes 1991 ). Eight years have passed since the Exxon Valdez spill, during which time concern over marine oil spills has grown to the point of creating its own culture. Our society’s need for cheap energy has made spill prevention an elusive goal, thereby elevating rehabilitation to a position of considerable importance in spill response programs. But just what are the benefits of rehabilitation and what are its likely costs? The developing polarity of views on wildlife rehabilitation makes this a timely issue. There are several reasons to question the wisdom of rehabilitating oiled wildlife. The majority of marine birds and mammals that came in contact with oil following the Exxon Valdez spill went untreated, not so much because facilities were unavailable but because these animals could not be captured or
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Oct 5, 1998
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