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On Saturday, September 24th, a fire broke out on a Pemex-owned oil tanker off the coast of Boca del Rio, forcing the entire crew to evacuate to shore. Burgos, the name given to the Mexican state owned vessel, was loaded with more than 160 thousand barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel, and was en route to the port of Veracruz.The recent fire set-off on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Mexico serves yet again as a reminder that no matter what precautions those responsible have taken, oil-associated endeavors remain a significant risk. 

Pemex’s oil-related undertakings are not new to the headlines. In April 2016 an explosion at an oil facility in Veracruz killed 32 people, injuring over 100. Likewise, incidents in 2012, 2013 and as recent as 2015, reveal that over 63 people have died because of accidents at Pemex’s oil-linked facilities. While the director of the Veracruz Port Authority, Juan Ignacio Fernández Carvajal, claims that “No other risk [to the environment] exists; the fuel is spilling in the sea and doesn’t contaminate because they are light fuels”, in regards to the most recent incident on board Burgos, the environmental impact remains to be seen.

And while the imminent and long-term environmental damages are yet to be determined, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident has demonstrated that the consequences of oil spills are far-reaching and timeless.

Summarizing five years of research on the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill using the example of dolphins, NOAA’s office of Response and Restoration concluded that the studies put forth “present a picture of chronic poor health, failed pregnancies, and increased mortality of coastal bottlenose dolphins in the aftermath and footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill”, a fate likely shared by other marine mammals. The respective investigations furthermore concluded that the 2010 oil spill may have disrupted – if not damaged – the reproductive potential of dolphins, and has contributed to the largest dolphin die-off in Gulf of Mexico to date.

As the events unfold off the coast of Boca del Rio, only time will tell if marine mammals will once again shoulder the burden as humans foster their greed for oil.