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Coastal Bend marine life experts say that oil spills can cause severe birth defects in aquatic life

ARK Rehab scientist also says oil can disable or kill turtles and marine water fowl.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Researchers at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas told 3NEWS how oil spills can impact surrounding aquatic life.

Dr. Kerri Ackerly is a research scientist at UTMSI. She studies how the environment affects fish. One of her research papers focused on how redfish survived the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

"One of the things we actually looked at was how the oil spill affected the fish when they were in their eggs and hatched. We saw that their hearts were very deformed and that they were probably not able to survive if they were hatched in oil," Ackerly said.

Over at the ARK Rehabilitation Keep, Program Coordinator Alicia Walker has worked for years to treat turtles who have been cold stunned, injured, or covered in oil. She said the oil can cause serious health problems in turtles.

"It can impact their heart function, and their ability to breathe, which would of course cause huge issues," Walker said.

Walker also told 3NEWS that marine birds are often the most impacted population when there’s an oil spill. During the recent Flint Hills oil spill at least 10 birds ended up dead because because of the incident.

"A lot of these birds are water birds and so they are going to be diving into that oil to try and find food and become a little bit more easily impacted," Walker said.

Ackerly told 3NEWS that if we continue to see more oil spills in the bay and they happen during breeding season, we could start to see significant effects on our wildlife population.

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