Oil Spill Update

Hi all,

I am fresh back from the Northeast Region Stranding Network Meeting. The meeting was an excellent forum for information exchange - so good it requires it's own blog! I'll post on that tomorrow.

For now I wanted to provided an update on the oil spill since so many of you have shown concern and requested information. I will say that communication is difficult and a bit slow but that's to be expected with an event of this magnitude. Teams on site are organized, trained and ready for oiled marine mammals or sea turtles. For the purpose of this blog, I'll remain focused on these two taxa since they are within my area of expertise and I have little communication with the teams working with other oiled wildlife.

In order to manage a large scale event like this oil spill, the government uses the Incident Command System (ICS). Our Rescue team has been using this system to manage mass stranding events for over a decade so we are well versed in its use and application. I am a bit of an ICS geek as I received certification about 13 years ago and have been using it ever since. I believe NEAq was the first stranding team to use ICS to manage large scale mass strandings of dolphins or whales...BUT...I digress! Check out the map below for a little insider info on how the system is used.

I found this map on the Deepwater Horizon site. It is called a situation map and shows the locations of all the staging areas where teams are in place as well as the Incident Command Post, the Mobile IC Post and the Unified Command Post. Check out the various keys on the bottom of the map for more information.

Barbara Schroeder, the National Sea Turtle Coordinator for the NOAA Fisheries, is now on site in the command center directing all sea turtle operations. To date there have been no confirmed strandings of marine mammals or sea turtles as a direct result of the oil spill. Over 70 sea turtles have stranded along a vast stretch of coastline but none appear to have external signs of oil exposure. Detailed dissections are ongoing to rule out oil contamination through histological evaluation. I believe this is normally a busy stranding time for this region so many if not all of the cases so far may be unrelated to the oil spill. That will be determined through histological exam.

One of the most important tools the Incident Command Team will use can be found in the map below. The NOAA Fisheries Services has created a Trajectory Forecast Map which calculates the possible path the oil will take as it spreads. Drift analysis, wind directions, tides and many other data sets are used to create trajectory maps. These maps help determine where response teams and equipment will be placed.

I'll do my best to keep you all updated as more information becomes available.

- Connie

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