In November 2007, the enormous Cosco Busan container ship hit the Bay Bridge, spilling 53,000 gallons of oily fuel into the Bay. The first reported estimate of the spill was only 140 gallons, and the failure to accurately evaluate and quickly communicate the scale of the oil spill allowed it to spread throughout the Bay. The oil stained shorelines and beaches, contaminated sensitive wildlife habitat, and killed thousands of birds.
Baykeeper was on the water in our patrol boat within hours of the spill. Through daily on-the-water patrols, Baykeeper documented the delay in implementing protective measures such as deploying wildlife search-and-rescue teams and booming of sensitive areas like Richardson Bay. We were immediately contacted by the media, and worked with the media to educate the community about the importance of a swift and effective response.
The Cosco Busan oil spill created an unprecedented outpouring of concern for the Bay and its wildlife. As tar began to stain beaches and birds struggled in the surf, residents witnessed – through both extensive media coverage and personal observation – that more resources were needed to clean up beaches and rescue wildlife. At the same time, officials did not incorporate efforts to assist with the cleanup by the many that were eager to help, including concerned residents, shoreline park staff, or local municipalities.
Baykeeper stepped forward to call for more resources to clean up the spill, help coordinate local park and municipal efforts into the official response, and organize trainings for residents who wanted to help with cleanup. We pressured response agencies to keep the public informed about the spill and to incorporate on-the-ground volunteers into cleanup efforts. Baykeeper served as a clearinghouse for information about the spill and what residents could do to help. We worked closely with local governments to understand volunteer requirements, find trainers, and advertise safety trainings and cleanups.
We also reached out to Bay Area boaters to help stop the spread of oil. Baykeeper volunteers traveled to marinas and docks throughout the Bay Area to hand out hundreds of our informational guides on how to help prevent the spread of oil in the Bay and safely clean oil from their boats.
Following the spill, Baykeeper participated in the Coast Guard’s official review of the incident, helping craft nearly 200 recommendations for improving oil spill response, which has helped improve oil spill planning across the nation. Baykeeper then helped create a package of state legislation, signed into law in 2008, to improve oil spill preparedness and response at the state and local level.
Since then, Baykeeper has been a tireless advocate for better protection of the Bay from oil spills. We serve as the nonprofit representative with regional, statewide, and federal agencies with jurisdiction over preventing oil spill pollution of the Bay and responding when an oil spill occurs.
Earlier this year, we won a major victory for protecting California waterways from oil spills. Baykeeper helped orchestrate the passage of a new state law that will provide rivers, lakes, and creeks with oil spill protections previously given only to coastal waters. The law also ensures continued funding for the California agency that rescues wildlife injured by an oil spill.
Now, we’re working to avert a new threat of oil spills in the Bay, the oil industry’s push to ship more crude oil through the Bay’s watershed in long freight trains of unsafe tank cars.