Crude oil and refined fuel spills from tanker ship accidents have damaged natural ecosystems in Alaska, the Galapagos Islands, France and many other places and times in Spain .
The quantity of oil spilled during accidents has ranged from a few hundred tons to several hundred thousand tons. Smaller spills have already proven to have a great impact on ecosystems, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill
Oil spills at sea are generally much more damaging than those on land, since they can spread for hundreds of nautical miles in a thin oil slick which can cover beaches with a thin coating of oil. This can kill sea birds, mammals, shellfish and other organisms it coats. Oil spills on land are more readily containable if a makeshift earth dam can be rapidly bulldozed around the spill site before most of the oil escapes, and land animals can avoid the oil more easily.
Control of oil spills is difficult, requires ad hoc methods, and often a large amount of manpower . The dropping of bombs and incendiary devices from aircraft on the Torrey Canyon wreck got poor results, modern techniques would include pumping the oil from the wreck, like in the Prestige oil spill or the Erika oil spill.