Press Release

Stephanie Stone (415) 379-5121

Andrew Ng (415) 379-5123


(Posted November 9, 2007)


On Wednesday, November 7, 2007, at 8:30 am PST, an 810-foot-long container ship called the Cosco Busan struck the base of a tower of the Bay Bridge. Approximately 58,000 gallons of heavy-duty bunker fuel oil spilled into San Francisco Bay and spread to beaches surrounding the bay and out into the Pacific Ocean. Besides economic and human health concerns, the oil spill poses a serious threat to the numerous birds, mammals, fish, invertebrates, and other organisms that depend on the bay for food and shelter.

The Academy's Role

The Academy has joined a task force composed of scientific, conservation, and governmental organizations to disseminate reliable information to the public and provide support where needed. This task force includes Dr. Terry Gosliner of the Academy and representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Francisco Department of the Environment, Oiled Wildlife Care Network, Marine Mammal Center, Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco Zoo, and more.

Responses from the Academy's Scientists

Academy scientists weigh in on the biological ramifications of the oil spill. Further comments are available upon request:

    Dr. Jack Dumbacher, Chair of Ornithology & Mammalogy
  • "For the bird populations, this spill could not have occurred at a worse time. During this time of year, many shorebirds, ducks, and other birds migrate from Alaska and northern areas to spend the winter here. This is the beginning of the best time of year for birdwatching in the Bay Area."
  • "Oil that washes into the estuaries and mudflats will especially affect shorebirds. These birds feed on animals that live below the surface of the water and mud. When they ingest their prey, they will ingest oil as well."
  • Click here for a list of Bay Area birds that may be affected.
    Dr. John McCosker, Chair of Aquatic Biology
  • "The spill will undoubtedly affect the survival of many fish species in the Bay. It will also further contaminate species that humans consume."
  • "The spill is a tragic consequence of the need for fossil fuels to drive our economy. It provides further evidence that we must try even harder to reduce our dependence, and be prepared for the inevitable consequences of spills associated with shipping and any further drilling along our coast."
    Dr. Rich Mooi, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology & Geology
  • "The Bay has a very complex set of currents, countercurrents, and flushing mechanisms. It will be hard to control and predict how the oil spreads."
  • "The effects of an oil spill on marine invertebrates are not well known. While the top predators and surface organisms will feel the immediate effects, every level of the ecosystem will eventually be impacted."
  • "Beaches and wetlands are also areas of concern. Beaches are much more alive than people realize—many creatures live in and among the sand grains. And wetlands are very sensitive areas. They harbor the reproductive stages of many species, including the Dungeness crab."
  • "San Francisco Bay is home to the horseshoe shrimp (Lightiella serendipita), a living fossil and possibly the only bottom-dwelling invertebrate that is endemic to the Bay. It was last seen in the 1980s around Brooks Island, which is now impacted by the oil spill. If it still exists, the spill certainly won't do it any good."
What You Can Do
  • To report oiled wildlife, call 1-877-UCD-OWCN.
  • To volunteer for bird clean-up with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network in Cordelia, California, call 1-800-228-4544.
  • For the latest information on the spill, visit the Coast Guard website at

The California Academy of Sciences is home to Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and the Kimball Natural History Museum. The Academy is in the midst of an extensive rebuilding project in Golden Gate Park. Pritzker prize-winning architect Renzo Piano is designing the new Academy, which is scheduled to open on September 27, 2008. (415) 379-8000.

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