Unified Command continues investigation of oiled wildlife
November 13, 2012
The Coast Guard, ADEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deployed investigators to St. Lawrence on Friday to work with local guides to conduct shoreline assessments.
Oil Samples are Taken from a Lightly Oiled Common Murre Harvested Sunday, Nov. 4 in Gambell, Alaska.
A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Air Station Kodiak with a pollution investigator aboard conducted an aerial survey of the waters around St. Lawrence Island last Thursday but reported no sightings of maritime pollution.
Thursday, November 7th, ADEC received a National Response Center (NRC) incident report regarding an unknown discharge which had effected birds and seals, and caused oil soaked debris to wash ashore. Reports of oiled wildlife were confirmed in Gambell and Savoonga, and initiated a joint investigation. The Coast Guard was initially notified of the oiled wildlife Wednesday from a representative of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.
The initial report was of three Common Murres with oil on their bellies observed over a week ago near Gambell. One bird was harvested for testing, and oil samples have been collected and are currently being analyzed to narrow down a potential source.
The ongoing investigation has revealed reports of an oiled Crested Auklet found last Tuesday near Gambell, an oiled Spotted Seal was also subsistence harvested near Gambell on Oct. 26. Another oiled Spotted Seal was subsistence harvested more than 230 miles from Gambell near Shishmaref on Sept. 3. Oil samples from the Gambell seal have been collected and are being analyzed. Efforts are also underway to obtain samples from the Shishmaref seal.
“Upon receiving the report, the Coast Guard reached out to state, local and tribal leaders and established a Unified Command to investigate the reports we received regarding the oiled wildlife,” said Capt. Paul Mehler III, commander, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage.
“We are dedicated to working with the community to ensure their health and safety,” said Tom DeRuyter, state on scene coordinator, ADEC. “Our teams will be working with local community members to investigate the situation and address the source of the oil.”
The Unified Command is partnering with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the Department of the Interior, the University of Alaska Marine Advisory Program, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, and local tribal leadership to provide a joint response.
"The unified command’s primary concern is protecting the wildlife and the sensitive ecosystem on St. Lawrence Island," said Capt. Paul Mehler III, commander, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage.
Oil samples sent back to Anchorage are currently being analyzed to narrow down a potential source. There have been no reports of impact to endangered species in the area.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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