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Natural Resource Damage Assessment

Steve Hampton

Immediately after the November 7th oil spill, the Trustee agencies (DFG, USFWS, NOAA, NPS, BLM) assembled a multi-disciplinary team to evaluate impacts to natural resources, including birds. This natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) will ultimately seek compensation from the owners of the Cosco Busan, in the form of restoration projects designed to benefit the impacted species (primarily diving ducks, grebes, murres, and cormorants, but also Marbled Murrelets and Snowy Plovers).
Some birds killed in the Cosco Busan were so heavily oiled they were difficult to identify. Photo by Diana Humple, PRBO

The first step is to estimate total bird mortality by species, relying on several kinds of data. PRBO was directly involved in collecting bird intake data and was the primary contractor for most of the specialized bird surveys during the response (Farallones, Snowy Plovers, other shorebirds, Alcatraz Island).

The next steps are to model the impacts to the affected populations over time and calibrate the degree and duration of the injury with the benefits of restoration projects. Such projects will be identified as can benefit the impacted species, with the goal to fully compensate for the spill impacts, over time. The Trustees' claim for monetary damages will be based upon the cost to implement the compensatory restoration projects.