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Archive for the 'Oil Spills' Category

Gulf Oil Spill: Fairfield Bird Rescue team to aid Louisiana wildlife groups

Gulf oil spill slick (U.S. Coast guard photo)
gulf-oil-spill-slick-2010, US Coast Guard

It came as no surprise to me to learn that my good friend Jay Holcomb and his team of wildlife rescue and oil spill experts from International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield have been activated to help with that HUGE oil spill from that blown-out rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jay and I first met while we were cleaning birds during the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill when I was curator at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA. Jay continued on in the wildlife/oil spill business and is now, in my opinion, THE oiled wildlife expert. When there’s a big oil spill anywhere in the world, the call usually goes out for Jay to bring his team of experts to help them set up rescue and bird cleaning operations. Good luck, my friend, you’ve really got your work cut out for you on this one! /Gary

I just got this News release from Bird Rescue this morning:
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Posted on Friday, April 30th, 2010
Under: International Bird rescue research Center, Oil, Oil Spills | 10 Comments »

Bunker Fuel: Recent Bay spill leads to renewed calls for bunker fuel ban

National Response Corp. workers wipe gooey bunker fuel oil off shoreline rocks at Ballena Bay in Alameda, Calif. on Monday Nov. 2. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)
Staff Photojournalist

In response to a bunker fuel spill in San Francisco Bay last Friday that resulted in a mile-long slick, Friends of the Earth renewed its call for a ban on the use of this highly polluting fuel in ships and for other protective measures.

“As Bay Area residents learned in the aftermath of the Cosco Busan spill in 2007, bunker fuel is a filthy sludge that literally comes from the bottom of the barrel when oil is refined,” said Marcie Keever, director of Friends of the Earth’s Clean Vessels program. “We should have learned our lesson in 2007 and moved away from bunker fuel to cleaner fuel. Any further delay is unconscionable.”
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Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Under: Oil, Oil Spills | 1 Comment »

Are we ready for another oil spill?

California Coastkeeper Alliance and Baykeeper call for improvements in oil spill preparedness and response after reviewing Coast Guard “Review of Cosco Busan Oil Spill.”

The California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA), a coalition of 12 Waterkeeper groups spanning the coast from the Oregon border to San Diego, and San Francisco Baykeeper last Friday (May 16) called on the U.S. Coast Guard and the State of California’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to work with the public and lawmakers to improve oil spill preparedness and response in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the state.
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Posted on Monday, May 19th, 2008
Under: Disasters, Oil, Oil Spills | No Comments »

Oil & sewage spills, toxic chemical spills: Did we ever have control?

50,000-plus gallons of toxic fuel oil is dumped into S.F. Bay after a ship hits the Bay Bridge on Nov. 7 … 5 million-plus gallons of sewage is spilled in Southern Marin on Jan. 25 and Jan. 31 … 1,500 gallons of raw sewage is spilled at Marin’s San Quentin Prison on Feb. 14 … 250 gallons of raw sewage spilled in North Marin on Feb. 18 … 6,000 gallons of raw sewage and storm water spilled in San Rafael on Feb. 24 …

And now thousands of gallons of the toxic and carcinogenic chemical toluene were spilled in Richmond sometime between Friday night and Monday morning. And they don’t even know for sure when the stupid spill happened!
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Posted on Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
Under: Chemical spills, Oil Spills, Sewage spills | No Comments »

Easter ducklings & chicks pose environmental & health hazards

PLEASE! No live pets for Easter!

Every year, children become ill with Salmonella poisoning from handling baby ducks and chicks, typically sold only during Easter. Dumping those ducklings at your local pond or community lake is also disastrous — to the ducklings and to the environment.

The International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in Cordelia, CA, sent me a note earlier this week asking me to alert you about the serious consequences that can occur when baby animals are purchased on impulse. They provided the facts listed below.

The problem worsens this time of year.

Easter baskets containing live animals are not only cruel, but also dangerous, as children can become infected with Salmonella by handling them. Yet pet shops and feed stores, even ones in urban areas, continue to sell live ducklings, goslings, chicks and bunnies, with no regard for the animals, the environment, or the people who buy them.

Most of these animals will live short miserable lives. When the novelty wears off and the reality of caring for an animal with special needs sets in, these animals, typically bought “on impulse,” usually end up abandoned in a local park to fend for themselves.

Many people think that all ducks and geese are the same but the reality is that domestic ducks and geese have been bred to be slow and flightless. They can’t fly to escape the jaws of dogs, raccoons and other predators.

When food supplies run out, they can’t fly to other lakes and ponds like wild ducks and geese. Or, the problem goes the other way, with overpopulation occurring.

On top of that, it may seem innocent, some think even kind, to feed bread to those “park ducks.” Well-meaning people feed them bread, crackers, popcorn and other junk food that fills them up, but offers no nutritional value. This leads to malnutrition. A steady diet of bread and crackers can even kill them.

And as they weaken they are more prone to disease which will affect the wild waterfowl populations that come and go around them. Botulism, Newcastle disease, duck virus enteritis (DVE), and avian cholera are all diseases that domestic ducks can spread to wild flocks. Outbreaks have caused the deaths of thousands of birds at a time.

The IBRRC center’s rehabilitation professionals see the end results of selling live ducklings at Easter. “One of the biggest problems is hybridization,” says Karen Benzel, spokesperson for IBRRC.

Wildlife rescue centers readily accept wild native ducks that are injured or orphaned but will not take domestic ducks, or hybrids, which result when domestics mate with wild ducks, like mallards. Local humane societies are typically not equipped to handle the needs of waterfowl or chickens and also become overwhelmed with unwanted pet rabbits.

IBRRC, which manages two rehabilitation centers in California, specializes in waterfowl and aquatic birds and in educating the public to the problems they face in the environment.

For the complete article about abandoned ducks and geese and the problems they face, visit the IBRRC Web page at:

International Bird Rescue Research Center, 4369 Cordelia Road, Cordelia, CA 94534, is a leading expert in the rehabilitation of waterfowl and aquatic birds, especially victims of oil spills. Founded in 1971, IBRRC’s staff and oil spill response team members have responded to over 200 international oil spills involving wildlife, treating over 100,000 birds and over 400 species.

IBRRC and their staff and volunteers (like you!) were there to care for oiled waterfowl when we needed them after the ship hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge last fall and dumped 50,000-plus gallons of oil into the Bay.

IBRRC manages three wildlife rehabilitation centers in Cordelia, CA and San Pedro, CA, for the state of California and the Alaska Wildlife Response Center in Anchorage, AK. For more Information about their centers, history, programs, to make a donation or volunteer, please visit their Web site at

Want to give your kids a nice, safe gift for Easter? How about a BIG chocolate Easter egg? YUM! /Gary

Posted on Thursday, March 20th, 2008
Under: Chickens, ducklings, Easter, Oil Spills | 3 Comments »

Will San Quentin Prison’s sewage spill kill more S.F. Bay birds?

Last Thursday (Feb. 14) there was a 1,500-gallon spill of raw sewage from San Quentin Prison into San Francisco Bay.

Sound familiar?

Over 5 million gallons of raw, partially treated sewage were accidentally released into the Bay by the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin on Jan. 25 and Jan. 31. Dead birds were spotted in the water on Jan. 26, the day after the first spill. There was reportedly another spike in the number of dead birds found on Feb. 1, the day after the second spill.

Although there is some debate about how these birds were killed, it’s hard to believe the sewage spills weren’t related in some way.

50,000-plus gallons of toxic fuel oil from the ship that hit the Bay Bridge, 5 million-plus gallons of sewage from the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin …  and now another 1,500 gallons of raw sewage from San Quentin have been dumped into San Francisco Bay since Nov. 7.

Does that mean more Western grebes, greater scaups, surf scoters, buffleheads and other aquatic bird species will be found dying in Bay waters near San Quentin?

We’ll have to wait and see.

And these are just the spills we know about. They really need to get a better handle on this stuff. /Gary

Posted on Monday, February 18th, 2008
Under: Dead birds, Oil Spills, Sewage spills | 2 Comments »

Sewage & oil spills: I wonder what’s killing the birds?

Staff and volunteers at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Tiburon, CA, have reported they are experiencing an unusual spike in the number of dead birds found in and around their facility.

More than 60 birds of a variety of species have been found at the sanctuary since Jan. 26. That number is similar to the total number of dead birds found at the Audubon Center after the 50,000-plus gallon Cosco Busan fuel oil spill on Nov. 7.

Over 5 million gallons of raw, partially treated sewage were released into the Bay by the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin on Jan. 25 and Jan. 31.

As I said above, the first dead birds were spotted in the water on Jan. 26, the day after the first spill. There was reportedly another spike in the number of dead birds found on Feb. 1, the day after the second spill.

50,000-plus gallons of toxic fuel oil and 5 million-plus gallons of sewage have been dumped into San Francisco Bay … and Western grebes, greater scaups, surf scoters, buffleheads and other aquatic bird species are dying.

Any guesses as to what the cause of this might be? /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, February 13th, 2008
Under: Birds, Oil Spills, Sewage spills | 1 Comment »

Public meetings on S.F. Bay oil spill

Cosco Busan oil spill restoration agencies schedule two public meetings to get your input.

State agencies: Department of Fish and Game, State Lands Commission.
Federal agencies: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Restoration of the natural resources “injured” by the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay is the focus of these two public meetings:

Tuesday, Jan. 22: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in the First Floor Auditorium in the Elihu M. Harris State Building, 1515 Clay Street, Oakland.
Tuesday, Jan. 29: 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Cascade Room of the Mill Valley Community Center, 180 El Camino Alto, Mill Valley.

The meetings will be held by the above state and federal agencies (trustees) that are responsible for restoring the injured resources after they assess ecological injuries and human use losses caused by the spill. At each meeting the trustees will brief you on the restoration process, answer your questions and seek information from the you about injuries resulting from the spill.

Main purpose of the meetings is to give the public and other organizations a chance to learn about the restoration process and to provide any additional information and data they collected. Because the focus of these meetings is on injury assessment and ultimate restoration, they will not be able to address questions about the immediate response to the spill at these meetings. (Hopefully we’ll be able to discuss THAT at another meeting!)

The trustees from the above state and federal agencies say they will develop a restoration plan both to restore the injured resources and “to compensate the public for the injuries to the natural resources and human activities.” (It’ll be interesting to attend these meetings just to find out what THAT means!)

Got something to say about all this? Here’s your chance. Don’t blow it. Go to one of these meetings. /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008
Under: Oil Spills, Public Meeting | No Comments »

Jazz benefit is for the birds

This is about a Jazz Benefit for the Birds at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1

WHAT: “Benefit for the Birds” is a benefit concert to raise money for local and international bird rescue efforts. It’s a mostly Jazz program featuring Grammy-nominated pianist Matt Herskowitz; flutists Carol Alban, Nancy Tyler, Antonia David and Ann Licater; guitarists Jack Gates and Jeff Suits; cellist Suellen Primost; vocalists Laurie Antonioli, Alvenson Moore and Mary D’Orazi; upright bassist Dave Lockhart; drummer Greg German; and other surprise guest musicians.

Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008, at 7 p.m.

Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland 94611.

Suggested donation of $10 or more. (More is best!)

Or call 510-542-7517.
This location is wheelchair accessible and there is plenty of free parking.

This is an opportunity to catch world-class Grammy-nominated pianist Matt Herskowitz and friends on New Year’s Day in a rare Bay Area appearance. Juilliard-trained Herskowitz is on the rise as one of the most exciting pianists on the jazz/fusion scene. He recorded a holiday album with Barry Manilow and has recently made several TV appearances.

** For more information about flutist Carol Alban, see

** For more info about jazz pianist Matt Herskowitz, see

Proceeds from this concert will benefit the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), a non-profit that did an amazing job of rescuing and rehabilitating the birds impacted by the recent oil spill in SF Bay. You can learn more about this marvelous organization at

Dear readers:
I’m sure you remember the International Bird Rescue Research Center. I wrote a lot about them both here and in my daily newspaper columns during the cleanup operations from the recent San Francisco Bay oil spill.

A lot of wild birds were killed when they got contaminated with oil from this spill. Fortunately, many of those oiled birds also lived to be released back into the wild because they were cared for and cleaned by the professional staff and caring volunteers at IBRRC.

IBRRC is a nonprofit organization and continues to operate because of the generous support of caring people like you. You can help and have an enjoyable New Year’s Day at the same time by purchasing a ticket and attending this wonderful concert. Thanks a BIG bunch! /Gary

(You can read Gary’s daily newspaper columns at

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2007
Under: Birds, International Bird rescue research Center, Oil Spills | No Comments »

Need broad govt. response to the oil spill

(I’m taking a Thanksgiving break after writing today’s blog. I’ll be back on Nov. 26. See ya. /Gary)

Audubon California says federal and state agencies need to take the lead on clean-up, investigation and policy changes.

As the State Assembly Committee on Natural Resources convened an emergency oversight hearing in Emeryville on Thursday (Nov. 15) in response to the Nov. 7 oil spill in San Francisco Bay, representatives of Audubon California called for state and federal agencies to take the lead in “investigating the cause of the disaster, ensuring proper recovery measures and implementing appropriate policy changes.”

In other words, get the lead out, figure what went wrong, fix it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“Local agencies and nonprofits have done amazing things in response to this spill, but it will not be enough moving forward.” said Glenn Olson, executive director of Audubon California. “We need the full weight of government action.”

The Bay has been designated an Important Bird Area of Global Significance by Audubon California. It was given this high designation because it hosts well over a million birds annually and remains home to a major portion of California’s remaining salt marshes. (Now we call them “oil marshes.”)

San Francisco Bay is host to the largest shorebird concentration in the West during the winter months.

By the way, November is definitely a winter month.

Olson expressed concern that first reports show that the initial response to the spill was slow and lacking the coordination needed to minimize the impact of the disaster. (Duh!)

This, in case you hadn’t guessed, is in the running for the Understatement of the Year Contest.

“Right now, it looks like the scope of the disaster was made worse by a flat-footed response and a lack of adequate preparation for this type of a spill in one of our busiest seaports,” Olson said. “This must change now.”

To put it more succinctly, “My bad” just won’t cut it. /Gary

Posted on Friday, November 16th, 2007
Under: Oil Spills | No Comments »