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Tuesday, January 15 , 2019, 10:07 pm | Light Rain Fog/Mist 55º


Captain’s Log: Bay Area Spill a Reminder of What’s at Stake

Local preparations include preventative measures and a rapid response.

A skipper ran aground in the San Francisco Bay last week, causing horrid problems for people, critters and plants. Tens of thousands of gallons of fuel spilled in an area where it washes in and out of the Bay, forcing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger to proclaim a multicounty state of emergency. He wants to keep people out of the water to limit the impact to nature while cleanup crews toil long and hard everywhere the yucky stuff washes ashore.

Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
Schwarzenegger also issued an emergency fishing closure of epic proportions. It covers all Bay waters from below Redwood City in the south to the Carquinez Bridge in the north. Outside of the Bay, the closure runs along the coast from San Pedro Point in San Mateo County to Point Reyes in Marin County. While the immense geographic area of the closure is mind-boggling, it must be remembered that powerful tidal flows and currents in that area can move the spill throughout a wide area faster than seems plausible. For a map of the closure, visit the California Department of Fish & Game at www.dfg.ca.gov/news/fisheries-closure.pdf.

The most important thing is to minimize risk to human health from consumption of seafood affected by the spill. The next most important thing is to keep resources available and keep areas clear of traffic to expedite the cleanup effort. Hopefully, it can be cleaned up with a minimum loss of sealife.

This is putting an awful lot of people out of work. The central Dungeness crab sport season has been halted. The commercial season was to begin Nov. 15, so now the spill is affecting the livelihood of area commercial crabbers. Other fisheries seriously curtailed include California halibut, bay shrimp, white croaker, groundfish, surfperch, Pacific sardine and northern anchovy.

My heart goes out to our northern neighbors, as I consider our local ability to handle a spill. I feel we are as prepared as can be reasonably expected. We learned our lessons in 1969 when we had a huge spill right off the coast of Santa Barbara. We have plenty of opportunity to learn and practice on our ever-present natural seeps off Coil Oil Point. Oil companies have done considerable work to minimize the impact of certain seeps even though they are completely natural.

Our local resources include the oil spill boom-boat (it can set a containment boom around an oil spill), Mr. Clean III, which patrols our local coast as it moves regularly between Cojo Anchorage near Point Conception and her mooring spot off East Beach. We also have a local detachment of the Coast Guard that is ready to roll as needed. I feel good about our oil spill response capabilities and I’m glad to pay for them when I gas up.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit group providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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