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December, 2007



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Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary's Beach Watch Volunteer Program Recognized In Spill

In testimony at the November 19th Congressional Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Field Hearing in San Francisco on the Cosco Busan Oil Spill, the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary's Beach Watch volunteer coastal monitoring program received recognition from panelists for its preparedness and quick deployment of trained citizens in the oil spill response effort. Dr. William Connor, Chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Response and Restoration HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials) Emergency Response Division, noted that Beach Watch volunteers who had participated in the 2006 Safe Seas oil spill exercise in San Francisco were mobilized on the morning of the second day of the Cosco Busan incident. In addition, Zeke Grader, Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Association, commended the deployment of Beach Watch volunteer "citizen stewards" along the coast to monitor and document the oil and assist with the clean-up efforts. Approximately 70 marine sanctuary volunteers responded to the incident.
Since Fall 1993 Beach Watch has conducted shoreline surveys within NOAA's Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries, spanning 150 miles of coast from Point Año Nuevo in San Mateo County north to Bodega Head in Sonoma County. National marine sanctuaries are areas that are congressionally designated to conserve, protect, and enhance their biological diversity, cultural legacy, and ecological values. There are three national marine sanctuaries outside the Golden Gate of San Francisco.

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary's Beach Watch coastal monitoring program offers volunteers the opportunity to contribute directly to the health of our marine sanctuaries. Beach Watch surveyors conduct regularly scheduled beach surveys for short-term and long-term monitoring of the state of the outer coast. Surveyors provide sanctuary management with baseline information on wildlife observed, and physical coastal conditions.

Between 80 and 100 volunteers from all walks of life participate in the Sanctuary Beach Watch program conducted in partnership with the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association, with an average annual retention rate of 85%. In 2004, volunteers contributed 15,668 hours in the program, for an in-kind value of $309,379. Evidence gathered through Beach Watch aids the Federal government when documenting damages from oil to wildlife and habitats. In 1996, this resulted in a $7.7 million settlement from a spill within San Francisco Bay extending into the Gulf of the Farallones. In 1998, this resulted in a $9.4 million settlement from an oil spill along the Central California Coast.

Management issues addressed through the Beach Watch program include:

¥ Assessment of wildlife disturbance
¥ Sanctuary living resource characterization including sensitive, and of listed Threatened and Endangered species

¥ Assess resources at risk from oil spills and vessel activities

¥ Provide data to improve existing oil spill trajectory models, track permitted activities, monitors impacts, and provides information for damage assessment, scaling and monitoring the effectiveness of restoration activities.

¥ Beach Watch is a nationally and internationally recognized monitoring program. Protocols for Beach Watch and SEA Surveys have been used as a model for oil spill response and damage assessment from spills in the US, Japan and South Africa.

Beach Watch surveyors conduct counts of live and dead wildlife, document demographics of beached wildlife, sample oiled wildlife, notify the sanctuary of the status of streams and lagoons, document visitor-use patterns and violations, and retrieve tarballs to assist the California Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response to detect the source of oil on coastal beaches.

Surveyors receive approximately 80 hours of classroom and field training. Surveyors are trained to accurately collect scientific data, and in the natural history and field identification of seabirds and marine mammals. They are also trained in the retrieval of oil spill evidence and handling of petroleum products found on beaches, according to forensic practices developed by the State's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

Spring, 2008 Beach Watch Training
To find out more information on how to become a Sanctuary Beach Watch volunteer, visit for information on next spring's training. Please note that this is not a training opportunity for the current oil spill incident.

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1981 because of its rich biological diversity, lies beyond San Francisco's Golden Gate. The sanctuary encompasses over 1,200 square miles of ocean and coastal waters, as well as bays and estuaries such as Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon, from Bodega Head in Sonoma County to waters off the San Mateo County coast. The sanctuary's food-rich waters support the largest breeding seabird rookery in the contiguous United States. The sanctuary provides vital nursery and spawning grounds for fish and shellfish. At least 36 species of marine mammals have been observed within its borders, including 25 endangered species, such as blue and humpback whales.

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America's marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts, and protects.

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