10 years ago, SeaDoc Society created a plan used today to keep orcas out of an oil spill
- Written by Joe Gaydos
SeaDoc Society sent out this letter about how a plan they created 10 years ago to keep killer whales out of an oil spill is being used today.
You probably heard that last Saturday a 49-foot commercial fishing vessel sank off San Juan Island spilling diesel fuel into the Salish Sea. Fortunately, the entire fishing crew was rescued. Unfortunately, not long after the incident, southern resident killer whales were observed swimming in-bound from Victoria, BC right towards the slick. This was a serious concern as spilled oil from the Exxon Valdez caused unprecedented mortality in both resident and transient (Bigg’s) killer whale populations in Alaska. Any oil-related injury or mortality in a population as endangered as the Southern Residents would be a disaster.
Over a decade ago, SeaDoc helped NOAA gather almost 40 managers, scientists, and oil spill experts from nearly two dozen US and Canadian agencies to create a plan to keep killer whales out of an oil spill. That plan became part of the Northwest Area Contingency Plan for oil spills and was pulled out as the playbook for action last Saturday afternoon.
We were lucky on Saturday when the Southern Residents turned away just south of the oil spill and eventually headed back out to the Pacific Ocean. SeaDoc is currently part of a larger, multi-agency team prepared to deploy acoustic deterrents called oikomi pipes should killer whales return before the vessel is removed from the sea floor. While the job is not yet finished, we can’t tell you how gratifying it was to know that SeaDoc played a role in preparing for such an episode over a decade ago. Conservation is a long-game, and we are always grateful for your support, which enables SeaDoc to be forward-thinking and on-task when the need arises.
We owe a big debt of gratitude to the US Coast Guard, NOAA, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Islands Oil Spill Association, Wild Orca, The Whale Museum, and all of the other experts responding to this spill. Just as important, we want to thank you for supporting SeaDoc and helping us protect marine wildlife now and into the future.
Joe and Team SeaDoc
- March 2: FV Aleutian Isle Response: Challenges and Opportunities - Special meeting in Friday Harbor
- Sept 22: Aleutian Isle no longer significant threat to environment in the San Juan Islands
- Sept. 21 Update: Aleutian Isle on barge, 40 days after sinking to 200-foot depth
- Sept. 20 Aleutian Isle Update: Vessel moved to shallower Mitchell Bay, dewatering and rerigging underway
- Update 10: Further Aleutian Isle lifting operations postponed due to weight
- Aleutian Isle successfully raised to surface; no whales in area
- Lifting of the Aleutian Isle underway
- UPDATE 9: Final preparations underway for lifting fishing vessel Aleutian Isle
- Sept. 12 Update: Aleutian Isle recovery efforts
- Sept 9 Update: Rigging Aleutian Isle for lift will take a few more days
- Sept. 4 Update Aleutian Isle: Wreck cleared of entanglements; rigging begun
- Sept. 2 Aleutian Isle Update: All valves and vents closed off by divers
- Sept. 1: Divers removing netting from wreck of Aleutian Isle
- Aleutian Isle lying on starboard side 200 ft down; TFR extended to Oct. 15
- Boaters asked to abide by safety zone restrictions near wreck site
- Aleutian Isle incident: Equipment on site, recovery will take 10 days once started
- U.S. and Canadian crews conduct transboundary whale deterrents drill
- August 25 Update: No sheen observed
- UPDATE #7: Efforts to bring sunken fishing boat up expected to begin Friday
- IOSA survey to gauge potential IOSA responder availability
- County Council met with response team last week; recording available
- Update 6: Specialized diving equipment will take a few days to arrive
- Coast Guard plans to remove entire FV Aleutian Isle from ocean floor
- Coast Guard Update 4: No marine, terrestrial, or airborne wildlife appear to have been affected
- Coast Guard Update 3: Depth of sunken boat increases difficulty for divers, ROV brought in, nets recovered
- Coast Guard Monday evening Update: Boat now in 200 ft of water
- Coast Guard, partner agencies respond to pollution incident after fishing vessel sinks off San Juan Island
- August 13: An "epic" encounter with J, K, and L pods
- Coast Guard Update: Divers on scene assessing possible defueling of sunken fishing boat
- Sunday evening update from Coast Guard about sunken fishing boat
- Opportunity lost
- San Juan County's view of diesel/oil spill situation
- Hotline to report sighting of oiled wildlife - 1-800-22-BIRDS.
- Coast Guard update on diesel/oil spill off of San Juan Island
- Diesel/oil spill off Sunset Point west side of San Juan Island