Alaska Oil Spill Response Guidance
Alaska Region oil spill response plans specific to marine mammals
Oil spills are a recognized potential stressor to marine mammals worldwide. Toxic components of oil have been shown to negatively impact the individual fitness of marine mammals and can lead to death. Exposure pathways include inhalation, ingestion, aspiration, and dermal/surface oiling. All marine mammals are susceptible to adverse effects from oil via similar pathways to those shown in the beluga illustrations here.
In addition to spilled oil, oil spill response activities can impact marine mammals, including entanglement in response equipment; vessel strike by response vessels; harassment/disturbance at haulouts, rookeries, and other aggregation areas; exposure to air borne or water borne particulates from in situ burn; and direct and indirect effects from exposure to dispersants. While oil spill response activities may drive marine mammals away from preferred feeding and resting areas, the noise and activity associated with response may inadvertently attract curious marine mammals, or may result in no change in behavior. Marine mammals may choose to remain in an oil contaminated area if it is a preferred foraging area.
In Alaska, remote conditions and extreme variations in weather, tide, and daylight add to the challenges of responding to oil spills and assessing impacts to marine mammals.
In order to better prepare for response and assessment, NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region has developed or contributed to the following regional, statewide, and national guidance document specific to marine mammals under our jurisdiction.
Alaska Regional Plans
- Cook Inlet & Kodiak Marine Mammal Disaster Response Guidelines and Appendices
- Arctic Marine Mammal Disaster Response Guidelines and Appendices
- Pribilof Island Wildlife Protection Guidelines (PDF, 32 pages)
Alaska Statewide Plan
- Wildlife Protection Guidelines for Oil Spill Response in Alaska (PDF, 220 pages)
- Pinniped and Cetacean Oil Spill Response Guidelines
- Guidelines for Assessing Exposure and Impacts of Oil Spills on Marine Mammals
Oil Spill Response Team members at the Alaska Region practice using and implementing the tools in these guidance documents annually by participating in and shaping oil spill exercises led by partner agencies, industry, oil spill removal organizations, and our agency’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.
- National Response Center: Federally established National Response System and staffed 24 hours a day by the U.S. Coast Guard. It is the designated federal point of contact for reporting all oil, chemical, radiological, biological and etiological discharges into the environment, anywhere in the United States and its territories.
- Health and Safety Information for Animal Care Workers
- Sadie Wright, AKR Oil Spill Response Coordinator