Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for March 2008

March 30, 2008

New 100-ft pelican aviary at SF Bay Center

Recuperating pelicans in Northern California now have a better place to stretch their wings after the construction of a new 100-foot flight aviary at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center located in Fairfield.

In 2007, thanks to a generous grant from the Green Foundation and funding from the California Department of Fish and Game, IBRRC designed and built the aviary at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care & Education Center. The center is managed by IBRRC as part of Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) treating oiled, injured and sick aquatic birds year-round in the Northern California area and beyond.

The critical need for an extra large aviary to care for pelicans and other large birds has always been known. It became even more evident in 2002 when IBRRC treated over 200 sick brown pelicans.

This is IBRRC’s second aviary on the west coast. In 2001, the first large pelican aviary was built and operates at the Los Angeles Oiled Wildlife Care & Education Center in San Pedro, CA. In seven years it has housed over a 1,000 Brown and White Pelicans and many other sea bird species including Cormorants, Terns, Gulls, Frigatebirds, Albatross and Boobies.

See more info on IBRRC in San Pedro

March 28, 2008

New rules for shipping in fog on SF Bay

After studying the aftermath of the Cosco Busan’s collision with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the U.S. Coast Guard issued new restrictions Thursday for ships traveling on the bay during dense fog.

The Coast Guard will now limit vessels from sailing on the bay when foggy conditions limit visibility by less than half a mile. The guidelines apply to ships weighing more than 1,600 gross tons – such as tankers, large cargo vessels and cruise ships. The rules affect nine San Francisco Bay areas including those near the Bay Bridge, the San Mateo Bridge and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

According to the report, the decision to set sail in dense fog played a key role in the November 7, 2007 collision with the bridge. The Coast Guard also revealed that at least four other ships decided against sailing that morning because of the foggy conditions.

The ship’s pilot captain has already pleaded not guilty in federal court to two misdemeanor violations in connection with the spill.

The Cosco Busan spilled more than 53,000 gallons of toxic oil into the bay, stained miles of Bay Area and ocean shoreline and killed at least 2,500 birds.

See: Cosco Busan faulted for sailing in heavy fog, San Francisco Chronicle

March 26, 2008

Timeline of Cosco Busan spill: First 90 minutes

This is a timeline of the Cosco Busan spill. It shows how fast things happen after an oil spill – and why acting quickly is important. The Nov. 7, 2007 spill put 53,569 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay.

Here are the first 90 minutes:

8:30 a.m.: Harbor pilot Capt. John Cota, guiding the 900-foot Cosco Busan out of port, notifies vessel traffic service that the ship “touched” a Bay Bridge pier.

8:37: Spill first reported by president of Bar Pilots Association; details scant.

8:54: Cota calls U.S. Coast Guard, reports ship discharging fuel.

8:55: New pilot boards Cosco Busan, replacing Cota.

9 a.m.: Deadline under state law for ship’s crew to place four phone calls reporting spill.

9:03: Coast Guard vessel under way to the ship carrying its own spill investigator.

9:05: First cleanup contractor learns of accident from a third party.

9:10: Contractor dispatches first two cleanup vessels; San Francisco Fire Department calls Coast Guard to offer aid, is turned away.

9:15: Cosco Busan crew makes first required phone call about spill, to its owner-representative.

9:17: Replacement pilot calls second cleanup contractor, leaves message.

9:18: Second contractor calls back, is told spill is about 400 gallons.

9:23: Pilot reports ship is no longer leaking fuel.

9:30: First contractor on scene. Reports heavy fog but finds no oil.

9:35: Contractor smells oil and reports “heavy sheen” on water.

9:42: State Office of Emergency Services notified of spill by ship’s owner-representative.

9:45: State oil spill expert arrives at Yerba Buena Island command center, begins three-hour wait to board Cosco Busan.

9:50: Coast Guard pollution investigator boards Cosco Busan.

10 a.m.: Contractor gets approval to begin skimming oil.

Source: U.S. Coast Guard Incident Specific Preparedness Review committee report, Jan. 11.

– From the Sacramento Bee

March 26, 2008

Many ships fail California test for spill alerts

A high number of inspected cargo ships entering California ports are failing routine emergency oil spill drills, according to state inspectors.

In public records obtained by The Sacramento Bee newspaper, 21 of 164 vessel given spot inspections by state officials over the past three years were lacking the ability to make phone notifications within the 30-minute time frame set down by a state law covering maritime oil spill procedures. Often the ship’s crew failed to locate the phone numbers or didn’t understand the task.

The Bee’s story comes on the heals of the Cosco Busan oil spill in which he container ship struck the Bay Bridge, spilling 53,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay. The ship’s crew failed to make the vital phone calls in time, among the reasons the spill grew so large.

Also included in the paper’s report is an illuminating time line from the first 90 minutes of the Cosco Busan spill.

The November 7, 2007 fuel oil spill killed more than 2,500 migratory birds.

Read the full story

March 24, 2008

Birds sickened along central coast a mystery

IBRRC has been assisting with the care of hundreds of birds that have been showing up with a mysterious illness along the central coast of California from Morro Bay south to Santa Barbara. Many of the 200+ birds are also showing signs of oiling.

The grebes are being treated at IBRRC’s Corelia and San Pedro centers. They are mainly Western and Clark’s grebes, two species that are common long the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Many have come from the Oceano Dunes area near San Luis Obispo. About one-third the birds have died.

Feather samples of the oiled birds are being examined by the state’s Fish and Game division: the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). The samples should help determine if this the result of natural seepage in the area or an unreported oil spill.

Oil seepage occurs naturally all along the coast of California. Most of seeps affect the Santa Barbara Channel area near Coal Oil Point. Oil seeps have been documented by early California explorers and by coast-dwelling Chumash Indians. Recent storms may have stirred up the oil which usually floats on currents as tar balls. See a map of California oil seeps

Pacific Wildlife Care center in Morro Bay has been collecting the birds and arranging transportation to IBRRC’s centers.

March 22, 2008

Ship pilot pleads not guilty

John Cota, the pilot entrusted with navigating the container ship that struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of criminal negligence and violating environmental laws.

The 901-foot Cosco Busan ship side-swipped the bridge in November 2007 and spilled more than 50,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay. The corresponding spill left thousands of migratory birds coated with the gooey oil. At least 2,500 aquatic birds died in the spill and scientists speculate that thousands more succumbed and were never recovered.

See the San Francisco Chronicle story: Pilot at helm of Cosco Busan pleads not guilty

March 18, 2008

Pilot captain in Cosco Busan oil spill charged

The pilot boat captain responsible for helping navigate the container ship Cosco Busan that struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge and spilling thousands of gallons of oil that ultimately killed 2,500 birds, has been charged in federal court.

On Monday, Capt. John J. Cota of Petaluma was charged with two environmental laws, including violating the Clean Water Act through criminal negligence and of killing birds, a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The 60 year-old Cota was in charge of navigating the 901-foot container ship out of San Francisco Bay on the morning of November 7, 2007 when it ran into the Bay Bridge in heavy fog. More than 50,000 gallons of bunker crude oil spewed out of the side of the ship. The oil spill closed beaches, coated birds with toxic crude and left a swath of oil from Oakland estuaries to Richardson Bay to outside the Golden Gate Bridge.

IBRRC’s Executive Director, Jay Holcomb issued a statement yesterday after the charges came down in San Francisco:

“We are happy to hear that the Federal government is taking the Cosco Busan oil spill disaster seriously, said Holcomb. “We hope that the pilot of the ship will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and send the message that in this day and age this kind of preventable accident is unacceptable.”

In the meantime, Cota had his pilot’s license suspended by a state pilot commission after it concluded that “pilot error” was the cause of the crash.

The bird rescue center helped treat hundreds of birds after the spill. Over 421 were cleaned of oil, banded and released back into the wild. IBRRC depends on the public’s support for all its year-round bird rehabilitation programs. Donate

Read more:

San Francisco Chronicle story

Video report:

Associated Press story from YouTube

March 15, 2008

April NTSB public hearing in DC on SF oil spill

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will hold a two-day public hearing Cosco Busan oil spill that dumped around 55,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay after striking the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The hearing will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 8 at the NTSB’s Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L’Enfant Plaza, SW., Washington, D.C.

The hearing is part of the NTSB’s ongoing investigation into the accident that involved the 900-foot Cosco Busan container ship that struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007. The board hopes to learn more about why Coast Guard and state officials were so slow to react and report the spill that killed more than 2,500 birds.

The hearing will be webcast. An agenda and webcast details will be posted on the Board’s website, http://www.ntsb.gov, when available.

March 13, 2008

Want to help more birds? Donate your old car

Do you have an old car that you’d like put to good use? Then please donate it to IBRRC.

We just linked up again with a car donation program that will take your car, sell it auction and donate the proceeds to our general operating fund. And you get a tax write-off for your good deed.

To learn more, please visit our Car Donation page on the IBRRC website.

March 12, 2008

A 100,000+ birds treated; 400 different species

In our proud 37 year history of working with oiled, sick and injured birds, IBRRC has treated more than 100,000 birds. This includes oil spills and general rehabilitation treatment.

The list of birds, from Pelicans to Scoters to Terns, is grown each year and now includes over 400 different species. We just updated the species treated list on our website and you can view it here:

IBRRC: Treated Bird List