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Resource Issues: Emergency Response and Oil Spills


Environmental emergencies occur within Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary each year. They vary in nature from municipal sewage overflows, vessel groundings, airplane crashes, whale entanglements, and oil spills to coastal landslides, demoic acid poisoning, and disease. The scale of environmental emergencies ranges from small, localized incidents (such as antifreeze poured into a storm drain) to large-scale events (such as oil spills from offshore shipping traffic, sunken vessels or natural seeps that can impact hundreds of miles of coastline).

How is the Sanctuary involved?

oil spillSanctuary staff assess natural resource threats during environmental emergencies and work in concert with government and non-government partners to determine what response actions are appropriate. For emergencies caused by human activities, such as vessel groundings and spills, responsible parties are identified and informed of their obligations under federal law to remediate any harm to sanctuary resources. For environmental emergencies caused by natural phenomena, such as red tides or coastal flooding, sanctuary officials work to protect affected wildlife and habitats from incidental harm that can result from human response activities (e.g. heavy equipment operations, low overflights, etc.) triggered by the event.

MV New Carissa wreck 1999Response to large oil spills is led by the US Coast Guard (USCG) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). The sanctuary contributes to response efforts by providing natural resource information and assessing environmental damage. Prior to oil spill emergencies, sanctuary staff participate on regional committees chaired by USCG and OSPR that develop coordinated contingency response plans. Advance planning and coordination is essential for providing prompt and effective response in any emergency.

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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