Oil Pollution in Our Oceans

I came across this article in the Vancouver Sun written by Stephen Hume which I find very interesting when it comes to the argument of where we may be putting our oceans at risk from oil.

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The interesting point in his article brought forward a comparison of where sources of oil in our oceans originate, and based on an analysis completed by scientists for the Smithsonian Institution, it was surprising to know that:

  • 5% comes from oil tanker traffic (referred to as Big Spills) and
  • runoff from urban centres contributed to over 50% – referred to as Down the Drain (not including hydrocarbon generated from vehicles which would push it up to 65%.- referred to as Up in Smoke)

Smithsonian (Ocean Planet)

Here is a link to the information from the Smithsonian:

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The data is based on as an archival version of the script of “Ocean Planet,” a 1995 Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition.

This content reflected the state of knowledge at the time of this exhibition, and has not been updated.


  • Down the Drain: 363 million gallons
  • Routine Maintenance: 137 million gallons
  • Up in Smoke: 92 million gallons
  • Natural Seeps: 62 million gallons
  • Big Spills: 37 million gallons
  • Offshore Drilling: 15 million gallons

It would be an interesting exercise to update the data to 2012 and to see if and where changes have occurred within the categories identified, especially after incidents like the Deep Water Horizon, though not a tanker incident.

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