Overview: Oil and Hazardous Spills and Wildlife in Alaska

oiled sea otterA sea otter oiled from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Public domain from the EVOS ARLIS reference

In Alaska, approximately 2,000 oil and hazardous substance spills occur on average each year (Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation). These spills can come from fishing boats, freighters, discarded wastes, leaky storage tanks, abandoned drums, other known sources, and sources that remain a mystery. Spills, large and small, can pose a risk to public health, property, and the environment. In Alaska, a major concern is the oiling of wildlife, and the safety of consuming marine shellfish, fish, birds, and mammals. If you harvest an animal in Alaska that is coated or stained with oil, report it to the authorities immediately. Spilling oil is illegal, and if oil is still spilling it must be stopped to protect the environment, wildlife, and humans.

How to Report Oil or Oiled Wildlife

If you find/see oil on the beach, in the water, on marine debris, or on wildlife, report it to:

ADEC and the US Coast Guard are concerned with finding the source of oil, stopping that source, and cleaning up any oil found. Always report any oil found.

Do not touch or collect oiled wildlife. It is important not to touch oiled wildlife for safety and investigative reasons. Take photos, note the location (latitude and longitude if possible), and report the oiled wildlife to:

It is also very helpful to report oiled wildlife to local responders. In addition to reporting oiled wildlife to ADEC and the Coast Guard, reporting to local responders, especially in more remote Alaska locations, can be helpful in collecting samples from the animals and determining and monitoring the food safety of subsistence-harvested animals. Below are phone numbers for local responders in a few of the more remote regions in Alaska.

How Oil Can Harm Wildlife

How Oiled Wildlife Can Harm Humans

Bering Strait Region

North Slope

Bristol Bay

Unalaska/Aleutian Islands

Note: If you are the person responsible for spilling the oil, you must immediately report any release of oil or hazardous substances in the water. It is the law! For reporting procedures and the agency to report to, look at the state reporting requirements and federal reporting requirements.

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