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The blow-out of the Ixtoc I exploratory well in the Bay of Campeche on June 3, 1979, resulted in the release of about 475 000 metric tons of oil to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The authors calculate that approximately 24 000 metric tons of oil landed on Mexican beaches, about 4000 metric tons landed on Texas beaches, and about 120 000 metric tons, or 25 percent of the total, sank to the bottom of the Gulf. Since thorough studies of the ecological damage in Mexico have either not been carried out or the results have not been released, the authors estimate biological damage from the spill on the basis of data in the literature, laboratory experiments, and experience with similar spills elsewhere. They calculate that some 15 000 km2 of the Gulf of Mexico can be regarded as poisoned by the Ixtoc I oil, although damage to lagoons was less than expected. The full extent of the damage remains unknown.
Ambio © 1981 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences