An oil spill caused by the collision between a barge and ship that left 170,000 gallons of oil floating in the ocean is damaging the habitat of thousands of shorebirds. The Coast Guard temporarily closed the Houston Ship Channel's passageway into the Gulf of Mexico in order to limit the impact of the spill on the birds living in Galveston Bay, but some oil-covered birds have been spotted along the coast.
The collision occurred near a channel in Texas City, where shorebirds are known to winter. The impact so far has been small, with only 50 birds needing treatment due to injuries sustained from the oil spill, but environmentalists are now concerned that the oil could wash up as tar balls, float onto the coast, and further damage the natural habitat of several thousand more birds. The Coast Guard said it laid booms around environmentally sensitive areas to protect them from the oil. --Jordan Valinsky