ANCHORAGE, Alaska—State and federal agencies are investigating reports from St. Lawrence Island of oiled wildlife, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley says an an Oct. 25 report mentioned a seal that may have had oil on it, and a hunter reported encountering oiled birds Monday.
An HC-130 Hercules search plane from Air Station Kodiak was slated to fly a pollution observer to the area for an aerial survey Thursday. Investigators from the Coast Guard as well as the state Department of Environmental Conservation are expected to reach the island Friday.
A unified command including the Coast Guard, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the mayors of Gambell and Savoonga is monitoring the situation. It is also in contact with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in addition to the University of Alaska’s Marine Advisory Program and local tribal leadership.
"The unified command’s primary concern is protecting the wildlife and the sensitive ecosystem on St. Lawrence Island," said Capt. Paul Mehler III, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage.
No damaged or sunken ships in the area have recently been reported to the Coast Guard. Samples of oil from the scene are being analyzed in an attempt to determine its origin, and investigators plan to consult with local guides in an attempt to determine the source of the oil.
The Coast Guard says there are no reports of impacts on endangered species in the area. The DEC report lists numerous environmentally sensitive species in the area, including seabirds such as spectacled and Steller’s eiders, Steller sea lions, ringed and spotted seals, and blue, fin, orca and North Pacific right whales.
Contact Chris Klint