Seal Committee has requested that sick or injured ice seals not be rehabilitated and released because of concerns about possibly introducing diseases into the wild population, but it is not clear what the policy would be in the event of a spill. Historically, Annex G has not utilized traditional knowledge in its response plans; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other agencies are attempting to include this in the future (presentation by Brad Smith, NOAA, March 2013).
Response methods for birds affected by an oil spill are generally well established (e.g., USFWS, 2003), and deterrent techniques, equipment, and trained personnel are readily available. Alaska Clean Seas owns and maintains a mobile Bird Capture and Stabilization Center and contracts with International Bird Rescue10 for personnel support. International Bird Rescue also owns a rehabilitation facility in Anchorage.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) is currently updating its 1999 Oil Spill Response Plan for Polar Bears in Alaska (USFWS, 1999, 2013), which will provide more specific information and guidance for polar bear response. USFWS has been attempting to improve coordination between response partners and has been studying how to best clean oiled polar bear fur (USFWS, 2013). Equipment for oiled polar bear response is maintained by Alaska Clean Seas and supplemented by USFWS equipment. However, there is a minimal amount of equipment, with capacity to respond to up to five oiled bears.
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is finalizing revisions to its Marine Mammal Oil Spill Response Guidelines, last revised in 2006.11 After completion of the revised national guidelines, regional guidelines will be developed, with Alaska as one of the first to be addressed. Deterrence methods for marine mammals have been considered for use during spill drills in Alaska, including air guns or other noisemaking devices. However, no techniques have been tested or are formally approved at this time. This may be of greatest concern for whales and walruses, because there are no approved deterrence methods. There is, however, literature on bowhead whales’ avoidance of seismic air guns and other sounds. NOAA faces a number of issues regarding deterrence and rehabilitation of wildlife—a lack of scientific study and developed protocols regarding hazing of marine mammals, working within the existing legal framework, and a lack of consensus with native co-managers. There are presently no facilities in Alaska with capacity to receive and rehabilitate any significant numbers of marine mammals (presentation from Brad Smith, NOAA, March 2013).
Over the past few years Alaska Clean Seas has sponsored an informal North Slope Marine Mammal Response Working Group consisting of the resource agencies (NMFS, USFWS, Alaska Fish and Game), Alaska Zoo, Alaska SeaLife Center, and member company representatives to develop procedures and identify needs for marine mammal response on the north slope of Alaska. Working relationships and procedures are improving, but additional resources are needed to increase capabilities. The Alaska SeaLife Center has developed protocols for the care of oil-affected phocid seals and has reviewed equipment on hand for polar bear response and determined the additional equipment necessary for seal response. They have also designed, constructed, and tested a Mobile Treatment and Rehabilitation Enclosure for seals for Alaska Clean Seas. One positive aspect of response activities in the Arctic is that, unlike other regions, many of the Arctic animals do not need