One year later: OWCN reflects on spill response
“Wildlife Experts Reflect on Anniversary of Big SF Bay Oil Spill”
One year after leading the second-largest rescue and rehabilitation of oiled seabirds in recent California history, UC Davis wildlife health experts are busy preparing for the next major oil spill.
“Our care for the wildlife affected by the Cosco Busan spill in San Francisco Bay demonstrated the excellence of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network as a whole,” said UC Davis wildlife veterinarian Michael Ziccardi, who directs the network. “It showed that a trained staff of dedicated professionals and volunteers, using research-based medicine in pre-established facilities, can save the lives of hundreds of animals that otherwise would have died.”
However, the rescue operation also revealed areas in the program that could be improved, Ziccardi said. “The infrastructure in place in California, following our four core tenets of readiness, response, research and reaching out, is truly not matched anywhere in the world. But our mission is to provide the best care possible to oiled wildlife, and with each spill, we learn how to make the ‘best care possible’ better.”
Ziccardi directed the care of birds of 31 species that were injured when more than 53,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled from the container ship Cosco Busan into San Francisco Bay on Nov. 7, 2007. Of 1,068 oiled birds collected alive, 418 birds (38.5 percent) were saved and later released back to the wild.
While lower than the typical 50 to 75 percent release rate that the network averages for California spills, Ziccardi said he considers this a success because “the spill occurred in the winter months (when birds are in poor condition), affected very stress-sensitive species, and affected a lot of birds — each of which makes it very difficult to repair the damage the oil causes.”
The injured birds were treated at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Fairfield, a 12,000-square-foot, $2.7 million facility capable of caring for up to 1,000 sick birds. It is the major Northern California rescue center in the statewide Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which is made up of 12 facilities and 25 local organizations that stand ready to care for oiled wildlife on short notice.
Note: IBRRC is a leading member of OWCN and co-manages two of its main oiled wildlife response centers in California: Fairfield and San Pedro. More info