California's Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) Wildlife Rehabilitation and Research Programs
IAAAM 1994
David A. Jessup, DVM, MPVM
Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response, California Department of Fish and Game, Rancho Cordova, CA


Catastrophic oil spills and toxic substance spills can cause considerable environmental damage and loss of animal life. In 1990 the legislature of California enacted SB 2040 (Lempert, Keene, Seastrand) which placed a $.04 per barrel tax on oil transported or processed in California, the proceeds of which are to be used to prevent spills, to respond to spills, to clean up those which occur where no responsible party is identified (orphan spills), to rehabilitate affected wildlife habitat, and to care for wildlife affected by oil. To meet these responsibilities OSPR has developed a veterinary team, built and outfitted a pair of mobile veterinary laboratories and washing and care trailers, and a Mobile Oily Bird Care and Rehabilitation Trailer (MOBCART). This equipment is capable of reaching any location in California within 24 hours.

The legislation (SB 2040) states "The administrator shall establish rescue and rehabilitation stations for sea birds, sea otters, and other marine mammals." To comply with this charge OSPR is building a facility at University of California Santa Cruz (next to Long Marine Laboratory) for veterinary care, rehabilitation and research on oiled marine wildlife. When completed in the summer of 1995 the facility will have cost approximately $5 million dollars and will be capable of caring for 125 sea otters, and be flexible enough to care for other species of marine animals and house ongoing research projects. To further meet the above goal a second piece of legislation SB 775 (Watson) was passed by the California Legislature allowing OSPR to use the interest from the $50 million dollar emergency response fund (a total of approximately $7 million dollars over a 3 year period) to establish a Marine Wildlife Care Network for the entire California coast in conjunction with existing scientific, educational and wildlife rehabilitation facilities. Current plans call for these additional centers to be developed in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area and Arcata/Eureka. Under the Wildlife Care Network and recent changes in Title 14 of the California Code minimum veterinary care standards, minimum wildlife rehabilitation facility standards, and minimum training required for all persons working on oiled wildlife in California are prescribed. Participants in the Network will share pertinent information, improve and standardize treatment protocols and cooperate in research. SB 2040 also says "The administrator shall conduct studies and evaluations necessary for improving .....oil spill wildlife rehabilitation..." And further states "The administrator shall evaluate potential adverse impacts on the environment and public health including, but not limited to, adverse toxic impacts on water quality, fisheries, and wildlife with consideration to bioaccumulation and synergistic impacts...." Currently OSPR is funding research at several California Universities and at Hubbs/Sea World Research Institute. Research programs address the effects of oil on various organ systems in sea otters (using mink as a model), immediate detection of trace amounts of oil in the fur of live animals, characterizing the potential effects of oil on the immune response of sea otters, characterizing the immune response of harbor seals including differentiating the effects of the rehabilitation process from exposure to oil and other health hazards, establishing baseline health information for pinnipeds, updating information on the status of marine mammal populations and delineating populations at greatest risk of exposure to oil, and establishing baseline health information on key marine bird species and population status.

All of this research is designed to improve our ability to care for oiled marine wildlife, and to improve our ability to determine both the immediate and the sublethal effects of oil pollution on marine animal populations. This will enable Federal and State trustee agencies to complete comprehensive wildlife injury assessments as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process. Settlements with responsible parties will enable trustee agencies to undertake restoration of injured wildlife resources.

Speaker Information
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David A. Jessup, DVM, MPVM, DACZM
California Department of Fish and Game
Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center
Santa Cruz, CA, USA

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