1999 exxon valdez oil spill injured resources & services update

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  • 8/9/2019 1999 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Injured Resources & Services Update

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    Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council

    Ex x o n Va l d e z Oil Spil l Res t o r at io n Pl anUpdate on Injured Resources and Services

    March 1999

    Ex x o n Va l d ez Oil Spil l Tr u st ee Co u n c il645 G Street, Suite 401, Anchorage, AK 99501

    907-278-8012 800-478-7745 (in Alaska) 800-283-7745 (outside Alaskas)

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    UPDATE ONINJUREDRESOURCES ANDSERVICESINTRODUCTION

    History and Purposes of the ListIn N ovember 1994, the Trustee Cou ncil adopted an offi

    cial list of Injured Resources and Services Injured by th e Spillas part of the Restoration Plan . This list serves three mainpurposes:

    1. It is representative of injuries caused by th e oil spill andcleanu p efforts and helps the Trustees and the pu blic track the statu s of imp ortant fish, wildlife, and other resourcesand services. The fish and wildlife on this list are thou ghtto have suffered population-level or sublethal injuries,but it d oes not includ e every species or resource that suffered some degree of injury. For example, carcasses of about 90 different species of oiled birds were recoveredin 1989, but only 10 species of birds are on the list of in

    jured species.

    2. It helps g uid e priorities for imp lementation of the Resto-ration Plan . This was especially impor tant in 1994 wh enthe p lan w as first adop ted, bu t the list still serves to highlight resources that are in need of attention. For examp le,wh at add itional work can be und ertaken to clarify thestatus of recovery-unknown resources, or what can bedone, if anything, to help move resources from not recovering to recovering or from recovering to recovered?

    3. Finally, taken as a w hole, the list of injured resources help sthe Trustees and the p ublic track recovery of the overallecosystem and the functions and human services that itprovides. For examp le, neither the ecosystem nor the service of commercia l f i shing can be judged to haverecovered from the effects of the oil spill until keystoneresources, such as Pacific herring, are themselves fullyrecovered.

    Chap ter 4 of the Restoration Plan indicates that the InjuredResources and Services list will be reviewed periodically

    and up da ted to reflect wh at is learned from scientific studies and other sou rces of informa tion, such as from trad itionaland local know ledge. Each time the list is reviewed , aresources prog ress or lack of progress tow ard recovery isevaluated with reference to a recovery objective that is asconcrete and measu rable as possible. Sometimes the recovery objectives themselves are chan ged t o reflect new insigh ts

    about the na ture of the injury and the best ways to evaluaterecovery status. The table on page 3 includes brief descriptions of what each recovery category means.

    The Injured Resources and Services list w as first u pd atedin Septem ber 1996. A t that time, for examp le, the bald eaglewas u pgr aded from recovering to recovered. In 1999, 10years after the oil spill, several more changes have beenmad e. The river otter is now considered to be recovered,and five resourcesblack oystercatcher, clams, marbledmu rrelet, Pacific herring, sea otterare up grad ed to recovering. One resource, comm on loon, is moved from recoveryun know n to not recovering. Five resources remain as re

    covery un know n. Four hum an services are classified asrecovering.

    The Injured Resources and Services list can b e up datedat any time that new information becomes available. It islikely, how ever, that the n ext evaluation of chan ges in recovery status for all injured resources and lost or redu cedservices will be in 2001, 10 years after the 1991 settlementbetween the governments and Exxon and initiation of therestoration program.

    Ecosystem Perspective and RecoveryThe List of Injured Resources consists mainly of single

    species and resources, but, as noted above, it provides a basis for evalua ting the recovery of the overall ecosystem, itsfunctions, and th e services that it prov ides to peop le. Infact, through the Restoration Plan , the Trustee Counciladop ted an ecological app roach to restoration, and the studies and projects it sponsor s hav e been increasingly ecologicalin character.

    Page 35 of the Restoration Plan defines ecosystem recovery as follows:

    Full ecological recovery will have beenachieved when the population of flora andfauna are again p resent at former or p respill

    abundances, healthy and productive, andthere is a full complement of age classes atthe level that wou ld have been p resent hadthe spill not occurred. A recovered ecosystem p rovides the same functions and servicesas would have been provided had the spillnot occurred.

    U PDATE ON I NJURED R ESOURCES AND S ERVICES March 1999

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    H UMAN SERVICESHuman services that depend on natural resources were also injured by the oil spill.These services are each considered to be recovering until the resources on which they depend are fully recovered.

    Recreation & tourismCommercial fishing

    Passive usesSubsistence

    Cutthroat troutDesignated

    RECOVERYU NKNOWN

    Bald eagleRiver otter

    Pacific herringPink salmonSea otterSediments

    Sockeye salmonSubtidal communities

    Common loonCormorants (3 spp.)

    Harbor sealHarlequin duck

    Killer whale (AB pod)Pigeon guillemot

    Archaeological resourcesBlack oystercatcher

    ClamsCommon murres

    Intertidal communitiesMarbled murrelets

    Mussels

    Species are showing little or no clear improvement since spill injuries occurred.

    Limited data on life history or extent of injury; current research inconclusive or not complete.

    Substantive progress is being made toward recovery objective. The amount of progress and time needed to achieve recovery vary depending on the resource.

    Recovery objectives have been met

    Wilderness Areas

    Rockfish

    Resources in boldface have eachmoved on this Recovery Lineduring the most recent update(February 9, 1999)

    RECOVERING RECOVERED

    N OT RECOVERING

    Photo by Roy Corral

    Resources and Services Injured by

    Dolly VardenKittlitzs murrelet

    Using this d efinition, the coastal and m arine ecosystemin the oil-spill region has not recovered from the effects of the oil spill. Keystone sp ecies, such as Pacific herr ing andharbor seals, have not fully recovered, nor h as the composition of biological comm un ities, such as in intertid al habitats.Although full ecological recovery has not been achieved,

    the spill-area ecosystem is still largely intact and functioning and on the way to recovery 10 years after the ExxonValdez .

    It also is importan t to und erstand th at ecosystems are dynamic and w ould h ave changed even in the absence of theoil spill. Baseline d ata d escribing fish and wildlife pop ulations, to say nothing of complex intertidal and subtidal

    commu nities, were generally poor. For this reason, it wasand is difficult to evaluate injury to individual resourcesand the ecosystem in general, and an inability to docum entinjury becau se of poor baseline data d oes not mean th at in

    jury d oes not exist. It also is impor tant to note that as thetime since the oil spill grows longer, it is more and more

    difficult to separ ate wh at ma y be lingering effects of the sp illfrom changes that are natu ral or caused by factors un relatedto the oil spill. In fact, wha t w e see is often an interactionbetween oil effects and natu ral changes, such as the effectsof the 1998 El Nio on common murres in the Barren Islands.

    Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council

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    Co n t en t sIn j u r e d R es o u r c e s

    Ar ch aeo l og ical Resou r ces . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . ..Bal d Eagl es . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . .Bl a ck Oyst er cat ch er s . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . .Common Lo on s . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . .Cl ams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Common Mu r r es . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .Cor mor ant s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Cut t hr oa t Tr ou t . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . .Design at ed Wil de r ness Ar eas . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .Dol l y Var den . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .Har l eq uin Duc ks . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . .Har bo r Seal s . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .Int er t idal co mmun it ies . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . .Kit t l i t zs M u r r el et s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Kil l er Wh al es . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .

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