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Getting the Band Back Together: Rescuing Sea Otters

Five people posing for a photo.
Dr. Randall Davis (Texas A&M University), Dr. Terrie Williams (University of California-Santa Cruz), Ian, Catherine Berg (NOAA) and Dr. Pam Tuomi (Alaska SeaLife Center) inside the Alyeska SERVS Otter Rehabilitation Module. Image credit: NOAA.

APRIL 14, 2017--March 1989, believe it or not, was the first and the last time sea otters were rescued and rehabilitated during an oil spill.

In 1996, Alyeska SERVS, response organization for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and Valdez Marine Terminal, designed and built a modular sea otter rehabilitation facility.

This modular facility is comprised of 20 standard shipping containers which can be set up inside of a warehouse within 72 hours of notification to form a functioning medical care and treatment center for oiled sea otters. The facility is set up, tested, and repaired about every ten years at the Valdez Marine Terminal.

This week, the original veterinary team from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, Dr. Randall Davis (Texas A&M University), Dr. Terrie Williams (University of California-Santa Cruz), and Dr. Pam Tuomi (Alaska SeaLife Center), returned to Valdez to test the functionality of the sea otter care facility. This served as an equipment deployment exercise to fulfill regulatory requirements for the Valdez Marine Terminal. The goal for this deployment was to demonstrate the operation of the Otter Rehabilitation Module, under the direction of these very capable and specialized veterinarians, to handle and treat otters.

The demonstration included various techniques for receiving, evaluating, weighing, sedating, cleaning, drying, and attending mock oiled sea otters within the rehab module. The demonstration was attended by Alyeska SERVS responders, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, and U.S. Coast Guard, Valdez Marine Safety Detachment.

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Last updated Friday, June 14, 2019 2:08pm PDT