A major source of oil polluting the sea is ships which use their cargo or fuel tanks alternately for carrying different kinds of oil and salt water ballast. Wash waters, wrecks, bilge water, and accidental spills account for large volumes of oils being discharged into the sea. Recreational beaches and sea birds are most adversely affected by oil pollution. Oysters and other shellfish in certain beds are injured by oil. Only at its worst does oil pollution appear to be injurious to animal and plant life in the sea. The movement, modification, and persistence of oil in the sea or on its shores are influenced by the properties of the oil, its dispersion in water, ocean currents, wind, sunlight, and many other factors. Most beached oils and tars become mixed with or smeared on solids to be buried, decomposed, or carried back into the sea by the tidal currents and the backwash of waves. Virtually all kinds of oils are susceptible to microbial oxidation, which is most rapid at temperatures ranging from 15 to 35 degrees C. In the marine environment oil persists only when protected from bacterial action. 78 references, 5 figures, 2 tables.