The 2011 California Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network Meeting

Late last week I attended the 2011 California Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network meeting, which was co-hosted by the California Academy of Natural Sciences and The Marine Mammal Center.  It was well attended by marine mammal researchers and enthusiasts from up and down the coast.  Thursday started off the meeting with Stranding Network summaries, followed by several oral presentations on sea otters, sea lions, and marine turtles.  Friday was a full day of posters and oral presentations covering a wide range of topics, from dolphin research to lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Saturday started bright and early with several workshops, including necropsies of several marine mammals and a sea turtle, and ending with what is called a “tabletop oil spill drill”, led by Sarah Wilkin (NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Region) and Mike Ziccardi (Oiled Wildlife Care Network). The Oiled Wildlife Care Network participates in 30-40 drills per year, ranging from “tabletop” drills, like this one, to full deployment drills that can last several days.  The purpose is to test our various protocols given different scenarios, from initial activation and deployment of field teams, to the logistics behind the facilities that would house and care for the impacted animals.  The scenario we were given was of a collision in San Francisco Bay between a barge and a passenger ferry.  Since we were at The Marine Mammal Center, with many marine mammal people because of the meeting, the drill was marine mammal focused, which allowed all of us to work through the scenario as best as we could.  Sarah and Mike were pros at throwing us curve balls, just when we thought we were getting a handle on things (personally, I think they enjoyed watching us sweat!).  I think we all learned from this experience, as we do with every spill drill.  After each oil spill we respond to, as well as after every drill, we have a “hotwash”, where we discuss things that went well, and things that we need to work on in the future.  I want to thank all who helped organize this Stranding Network meeting.  It was a true honor for me to be a part of it and to meet and work with such caring and easy-going people.


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