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Contact: John Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135
National Park Service staff discovered thick oil globules on the beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore today. The oil was first spotted along RCA Beach in the southern portion of the National Seashore. The source of the oil appears to be from the Cosco Busan container ship which sideswiped the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge on Wednesday, November 7. The tar balls, typically fist size or smaller, are fresh heavy black oil. The following beaches are currently closed until further notice to protect park visitors from coming into contact with oil: RCA and Palomarin.
Many sensitive and threatened species are at risk including western snowy plovers, brown pelicans, northern fur seals, northern elephant seals, and harbor seals. To date, approximately 20 oiled birds have been seen and collected off of Wildcat, Limantour and Drakes Beaches. National Park Service biologists began surveys of beaches on Wednesday and will continue to assess any impacts to pelagic sea birds, marine mammals and marine invertebrates typically found in tidepools. Study plots have been established and monitored for 10 years and a baseline of species has been documented so any change to these baselines figures can be easily measured.
Additionally, National Park Service staff brought over 4, 000 feet of boom material down the beach at Limantour and Drakes Beaches yesterday in an attempt to place booms should any oil come towards the mouth of Drakes Estero. The estuary is the only coastal bay with special congressional designation as wilderness in the western United States, south of Alaska. The estuary was recently designated a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN), a site of Regional Importance in the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan because it is important to a great diversity and abundance of shorebirds. Drakes Estero is adjacent to Estero de Limantour, a State Ecological Marine Reserve established in 1974 by the California Department of Fish and Game.
If you see an oiled bird or marine mammal, do not attempt to remove it. Please call 415-464-5170 or notify a ranger of its location and the time when you saw it. Volunteers can go to www.owcn.org for information on how they can help.
Please visit our expanded website for updated information of closures and reopening of beach areas at www.nps.gov/pore.