Lessons from the Panama Oil Spill

On April 27, 1986, an estimated 50,000 barrels of medium-weight crude oil drained from a ruptured storage tank at a refinery in Panama, polluting the coast and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Galeta Marine Laboratory, located at the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. For 15 years before the oil spilled into Bahía las Minas, researchers had collected baseline biological and environmental data. Dr. Jeremy Jackson, Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, led an in-depth study of the oil spill’s effects. Dr. Jackson discusses the study, its lessons for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the even more devastating major threats that face the ocean today. More about the Gulf oil spill can be found in our Gulf Oil Spill featured story.