Most of the environmental consequences of catastrophic spills are relatively short-lived, scientists point out. Through international agreements, the amount of oil entering the seas from spills is minimal -- less than 1 percent in the Black Sea, for instance.
Seabird populations may be slow to recover, however, and weathered oil from spills at sea can become adsorbed into beach strata for several decades.
With future exploitation of marine oil and gas reserves likely to take place in many developing regions of the world, scientists are still concerned about the ability to provide adequate regulation and/ or enforcement and to respond to oil spills in such regions.
Even so, hydrocarbons from shipping, refining and runoff from parking lots are likely, overall, to be of greater biological significance, the scientists warn.