Reeve Woolpert carries an oil-covered Brown Pelican from Refugio State Beach. Photo from Ventura County Star via Audubon.
On May 19, 2015, more than 100,000 gallons of thick, crude oil poured out of a ruptured pipeline in Santa Barbara County. The pipeline is owned by Plains All American, one of the worst violators of safety and maintenance regulations in the industry, according to a list by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration.
The local community, some arguably still scarred from the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, watched in despair as a pool of oil spread and began to wash up onshore over a 10-mile stretch of coast and continues to wash up today.
A day after the pipeline rupture, the oil sheen—and oil-soaked kelp—makes its way toward the shore. Photo by Brian van der Brug/LA Times/Getty via Audubon.
Ironically, members of the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) were in Alaska, attending a conference about the effects of oil on wildlife, when the real thing happened. OWCN Director Mike Ziccardi, who has experienced more than 50 spills in California and abroad, booked a red-eye flight from Anchorage to Santa Barbara.
“California is the best region in the world for oiled wildlife response,” Ziccardi said in the UC Davis Today article. “Through the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network, we have over 35 organizations we work with regularly. We train, do drills and exercises; we’ve built 12 facilities throughout the state for oiled wildlife.”
Regardless of the group’s preparedness, no community is truly prepared to witness the devastation a spill can wreak on their beaches and wildlife. The following video shows the impact of the spill’s aftermath to wildlife.
‘Typically, the number of birds far outweighs the number of marine mammals brought into the wildlife care facilities. With the Santa Barbara spill, the ratio is much less distinct.’ said marine biologist Kyra Mills-Parker with OWCN.