Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez disaster the aftershocks still reverberate, both in the natural environment and in the communities where lives were forever altered by the event. The organization created to promote restoration and research in Prince William Sound has released a report that avoids painting with a broad brush and instead tries to portray many shades of gray:
"Over the last 20 years, we have made significant progress in restoration of areas impacted by the spill: permanently protecting crucial habitat; increasing our knowledge of the marine ecosystem; and developing new tools for better management of these vital resources. Visitors to Prince William Sound and the North Gulf Coast of Alaska today again experience spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife and see little evidence of the spill. Yet the area has not fully recovered. In some areas, Exxon Valdez oil still remains and is toxic. Some injured species have yet to recover to pre-spill levels. This long-term damage was not expected at the time of the spill and was only just starting to be recognized in 1999, at the 10th Anniversary.
"At that time, the majority of species injured by the spill were still struggling with low numbers, such as the depressed herring populations, but it was expected that the ecosystem would recover naturally over time. Now, in 2009, as we reach the end of the second decade, many of these areas and species of concern remain. As we learn more, the picture of recovery is more complicated than was first appreciated."