Crews investigating reports of oiled wildlife on St. Lawrence Island

Coast Guard Alaska NewsANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the mayors of Gambell and Savoonga established a unified command to investigate reports of oiled wildlife on the coast of St. Lawrence Island, Thursday.

An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak with a pollution observer aboard is scheduled to conduct an aerial survey of the area Thursday. The Coast Guard, ADEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also plan on deploying investigators to the area Friday, to work with local guides to further investigate the possible source of the oil.

“The unified command’s primary concern is protecting the wildlife and the sensitive ecosystem on St. Lawrence Island,” said Capt. Paul Mehler III, commander, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage.

The unified command is liaising with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Department of the Interior, the University of Alaska Marine Advisory Program, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, and local tribal leadership to provide a joint response.

The Coast Guard was initially notified of the oiled wildlife Wednesday from a representative of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. Oil samples sent back to Anchorage are currently being analyzed to narrow down a potential source.

There have been no reports of impact to endangered species in the area.

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