USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Research Topics Wildlife & Fish

Marine Oil Spill Monitoring Methods

Two oil spills have occurred in Humboldt Bay, California, during the years we have been conducting offshore research on Marbled Murrelets.

  • In 1997, the M/V Kure ruptured its hull while docking and spilled approximately 4,500 gallons of bunker fuel oil into Humboldt Bay.
  • In 1999, the M/V Stuyvesant ruptured its hull with a dredge arm during dredging operations and caused a spill of approximately 2,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil near the entrance of Humboldt Bay and further out to sea.

In both cases, the oil dispersed along the outer coastline, mainly north of the bay. We conducted surveys of mammals and birds in the bay and offshore for several weeks after both events to help inform the response, beginning with the day of each spill. This afforded us the unique opportunity to develop new techniques for assessing the impact of oil spills on the bird community. We have completed our oil spill monitoring protocol, which includes methods for recording the amount of oil on birds and on the water, building on our line transect survey methods. We are currently working on a manuscript based on these surveys.