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oil spill prevention and response

On March 24, 1989 the EXXON VALDEZ spilled approximately 11 million gallons of crude oil in Alaska. At the time, the spill was the largest in U.S. history and tested the abilities of local, national, and industrial organizations to prepare for, and respond to, a disaster of such magnitude. Many factors, such as the size of the spill and its remote location, complicated the cleanup efforts following the spill and tested existing plans for dealing with such an event. As many as 100,000 to 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, as well as the destruction of billions of salmon and herring eggs. Exxon’s cleanup costs for the spill exceeded an estimated $2 billion.

Less than a year later on February 7, 1990 the AMERICAN TRADER spilled an estimated 416,598 gallons of crude oil off Huntington Beach in Southern California. About 3,400 birds were killed and fishing and recreational beach sue were negatively impacted. It was estimated that the total cleanup costs exceeded $15 million.

These events inspired the California Legislature to enact legislation in 1990 called the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act. The Act covers all aspects of marine oil spill prevention and response in California. The Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) was established in 1991 and mandated with prevention, removal, abatement, response, containment, and cleanup efforts with regard to all aspects of any oil spill in marine waters of the state.

In 2007, the Cosco Busan spill event in San Francisco Bay reminded us of the very real possibility of a catastrophic oil spill event happening off the California coast. After the chaotic events surrounding the Cosco Busan spill in San Francisco Bay, The Otter Project has been increasingly concerned about oil spill response efforts in the Monterey Bay and the use of public assets such as volunteers.

The Otter Project addresses the risk of oil pollution by working to prevent oil spills, and in the event of a spill, we work to minimize the impact through improved communications and supporting efforts to respond quickly and effectively to an oil spill within the sea otter’s range.


Click the link(s) below to read about our recent work:


Monterey Bay Area Oil Spill Volunteer Response Workshop:

Workshop Summary

Workshop Agenda

Workshop Attendee List



U.S. Coast Guard, Sector San Francisco

Note: The following are only titles of the presentations conducted by OSPR during the workshop.

Oil Spill Response in California*

Response to Oil Wildlife in California*

Non-Wildlife Volunteer Plan**

* General Information for these presentations can be found at the OSPR website.
** Link to Non-Wildlife Volunteer Plan


Oil Spill Response Resources:

To Report a Spill call: 800-852-7550 or 800-OILS-911

California Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response

DFG • OSPR Cal Spill Watch

OSPR Volunteer Information

OPSR Volunteer Hotline: 1-800-228-4544

Oiled Wildlife Care Network

OWCN Response Hotline: 1-877-UCD-OWCN (823-6926)

Monterey Bay Area Contingency Plan

Wildlife Response Plan

What is OSPR? and its key responsibilities