Galveston Bay oil spill: Nature always pays the price

A collision between two ships in Galveston Bay, Texas, resulted in a spill of up to 168,000 gallons of fuel oil.

The accident occurred only a few miles away from bird sanctuaries such Houston Audubon's Bolivar Flats and North Deer Island. Reports indicate that many birds have been killed.

The spill occurred at the height of the spring migration, when millions of resident and migratory birds use the Texas coast to feed and breed.

Oil traveled out into the Gulf of Mexico and migrated southwest down the Texas coast. The spill made landfall at Matagorda Island, a barrier island some 120 miles away from Galveston.

"When a bird has oil coating its eyes and bill, it's not capable of getting rid of it. Watching this is like watching them die in slow motion," explains David Newstead, a research scientist at Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program.

Birds affected by the spill include ducks, herrings, herons, brown and white pelicans, sanderlings, loons, willets, black-bellied plover and the piping plover, which is classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The tank barge operator involved in the oil spill is owned by Kirby Inland Marine.