The Intersection

Earlier this month, 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel poured into San Francisco Bay when the cargo ship Cosco Busan hit the Bay Bridge. What I want to know is–since the actual amount of oil released in the Bay was relatively small compared to scenarios like Exxon Valdez, why are we witnessing a major environmental disaster?

You see, the real tragedy was twofold… yes, the spill was preventable, but equally troubling, the containment and response efforts were inadequate.

As explained in The San Francisco Chronicle:

The spill could have serious long-term consequences for fish, birds and plant life in and around the bay, said Keren Murphy, a Sierra Club expert on offshore drilling and fishing.

“Oil is extremely toxic to marine life, even at low concentrations or small spills,” Murphy said. “On top of that, in an enclosed bay like San Francisco Bay, the coastal wetlands are particularly vulnerable. The shelter, lagoon and wetlands that are in this bay – this type of oil can persist in the sediment for decades.”

The bunker fuel “could potentially affect the bottom-dwelling organisms, fish, invertebrates, which are food for the larger, charismatic species that we all see,” Murphy said. “It will then affect them.”

Only about 30 percent of birds and mammals exposed to oil spills survive for more than a year, “due to the toxicity of the oil,” Murphy said.

i-aeb5f4355585007edb01608dfd098d0f-oilspillbird.jpgThe Ocean Conservancy has more on impacts to the region and satellite images of the oil in San Francisco Bay.

Come on folks, we need to do better…


  1. #1 Linda
    November 26, 2007

    I have felt infuriated with the entire situation since it started being reported. I would like to know the complete responsibility of the Cosco Busan and its owner.
    Your new photo is lovely…

  2. #2 Kevin
    November 28, 2007

    This thing has really pissed me off from the beginning. The Coast Guard and the California DFG deserve a good measure of blame for how bad this thing became.

  3. #3 Kevin
    November 30, 2007

    Well, the DFG have re-opened the bay and ocean around San Francisco to sport and commercial fishing, as of this evening. Not that it will do the dead birds much good.

  4. #4 Inoculated Mind
    December 3, 2007

    I’m from the North Bay originally, and I followed the coverage of the spill. From what I gathered, part of the inadequacy of the response was that the ship reported that only a few hundred gallons leaked out. Whether they were lying or just didn’t know (yet somehow they knew it must only be 300…) it is hard to tell. This may affect how the responses will be to such events in the future – maybe they will send the full team right away and send most of them home if its not a big spill. Make your response relative to the size of the ship and not the report that the ship gives you.

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