Baykeeper Update

Protecting the Bay’s Most Sensitive Habitats from an Oil Spill

Oil Spill

In 2007, the Cosco Busan container ship struck the Bay Bridge, ripping open its fuel hold and spilling 53,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay. The spill killed thousands of birds, closed more than 50 local beaches, and coated sensitive shoreline habitat with oil.

With five large oil refineries around the Bay and thousands of tankers, barges, and container vessels crossing the water every year, the Bay constantly faces the threat of another large oil spill. 

Cosco Busan was a wake-up call,” says Baykeeper Executive Director Sejal Choksi-Chugh. “It highlighted the need for better oil spill preparation to protect the Bay.”

And now Baykeeper is working to make sure another incident like the Cosco Busan spill doesn’t hurt the Bay again.

Baykeeper scientists recently joined a new state agency task force to update the ranking of Bay sites that would be the most at risk if, and when, the next big oil spill occurs. This program will prioritize these sensitive areas for rapid response and create plans to contain oil and protect endangered species.

The task force recently identified three new sites near the Hamilton Wetlands and one site in the South Bay to add to the list of priority response areas. These preparations will help minimize the impact of a spill on wildlife.  And planning will also help safeguard critical areas, like wetlands, that would be unable to recover if contaminated by oil.

As Sejal put it, “We can’t entirely eliminate the possibility of a major oil spill in the Bay—but we can make sure we’re ready to defend the Bay’s most sensitive shorelines and wildlife.”