Massive oil spill in OC endangers birds, seals, sea lions. Wildlife care workers are preparing for the worst

A clean-up team works on clearing the oil slicks at the Talbert Channel after a major oil spill off the coast of California has come ashore in Huntington Beach, California, U.S. October 3, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Gene Blevins.

More than 126,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean this weekend. Orange County officials blamed a damaged pipeline off the coast of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. The full extent of the damage is currently unclear, but already birds and marine life are suffering and dying.

“Typically spills of this nature, we're here for several weeks to months, continuing to respond to animals,” said Michael Ziccardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, at a press conference this morning.

Peter Chang, CEO at Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach, says he’s concerned about animals ingesting and inhaling the oil, which can affect their respiratory systems. 

Also with animals like seals and sea lions, he says if oil coats their fur, then they’ll have trouble staying warm. “A lot of times when the oil drenches these animals, they'll go into hyperthermia, and they will literally freeze to death.”

Chang says people who want to help must be trained by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, and right now, PMMC is recording prospective volunteers’ contact info. (You can reach them via their website or phone: 949-494-3050.)

“When the time comes, we can put a call out for these folks to come in and help. … We're getting all the supplies ready. We have a bunch of things … on our wish list that we're going to need. … Also we're taking in financial donations to purchase supplies.”

How many animals is Chang expecting to treat? He says he doesn’t know — and is preparing for the worst. 

“The tricky thing with the oil response — once you use the supplies on one particular animal, you pretty much can't use those supplies anymore because the oil doesn't come off. So you have to … throw away all of that gear and all those supplies. And for the next response, you have to use a whole new set of supplies. So it's going to take a lot of resources. But we don't know quite yet what to expect.”

Credits

Guest:

  • Peter Chang - CEO at Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach