Unified Command continues investigation of oiled wildlife on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska

Coast Guard Alaska NewsANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Unified Command consisting of the Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and communities of Gambell and Savoonga continues to investigate the reports of oiled wildlife on the coast of St. Lawrence Island, Friday.

The Coast Guard, ADEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have deployed investigators to St. Lawrence, to work with local guides to conduct shoreline assessments.

Am HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak with a pollution investigator aboard conducted an aerial survey of the waters around St. Lawrence Island Thursday but reported no sightings of maritime pollution.

The Coast Guard received a National Response Center notification of oiled wildlife Wednesday, and initiated a joint investigation.

The initial report was of three Common Murres with oil on their bellies observed on Sunday near Gambell. One bird was harvested for testing, and oil samples have been collected and are currently being analyzed to narrow down a potential source.

The ongoing investigation has revealed reports of an oiled Crested Auklet found on Tuesday near Gambell, an oiled Spotted Seal was also subsistence harvested near Gambell on Oct. 26. Another oiled Spotted Seal was subsistence harvested more than 230 miles from Gambell near Shishmaref on Sept. 3. Oil samples from the Gambell seal have been collected and are being analyzed. Efforts are also underway to obtain samples from the Shishmaref seal.

“Upon receiving the report, the Coast Guard reached out to state, local and tribal leaders and established a Unified Command to investigate the reports we received regarding the oiled wildlife,” said Capt. Paul Mehler III, commander, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage.

“We are dedicated to working with the community to ensure their health and safety,” said Tom DeRuyter, state on scene coordinator, ADEC. “Our teams will be working with local community members to investigate the situation and address the source of the oil.”

The Unified Command is partnering with the Alaska Department of Fish & 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.

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

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.