On April 20, 2010, the world watched in horror as the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. While large spills have occurred previously, this response significantly differed from other disasters in many important aspects that complicated the response, putting tens of thousands of birds, 29 protected marine mammal species, and five threatened or endangered sea turtle species at risk.
Oiled wildlife professionals were quickly mobilized to capture and treat recovered animals, with NOAA-NMFS and UC Davis’ Oiled Wildlife Care Network helping to lead the effort to treat oiled marine mammals and sea turtles. From the beginning, there were significant challenges associated with planning for and responding to the crisis: responding to, in essence, a new 50-60,000-barrel spill every day; developing operational activities on site due to cetaceans and turtles never being recovered in large numbers during previous spills; and simply the sheer size of the response.
This presentation will provide an overview of the activities of the Marine Mammal/Sea Turtle Group under the Wildlife Branch for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including development of primary and secondary care centers for the five state region, completion and revision of animal care protocols, a review of key activities of the Group (including issues related to controlled burns, translocation of sea turtle nests, and at-sea collection of live turtles) and a synopsis of the intake, release and necropsy data. Lastly, recent information related to the potential effects of the spill on these populations will be presented