Small spill, big problem

SF Bay oil spill bad news for fish population

Oil spilled into San Francisco Bay from a damaged cargo ship was more toxic to local fish populations than expected, scientists report.

The spill, which occurred in 2007 when the container ship Cosco Busan sideswiped the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, introduced 54,000 gallons of “bunker fuel” to the bay’s marine life, according to the L.A. Times. Although the spill was considered moderate in size, researchers discovered the fuel was surprisingly toxic to herring embryos, especially when exposed to sunlight. Herring provide a source of food for seabirds, whales and the bay’s last commercial fishery.

Scientists have traditionally studied large oil spills like the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon disasters, but are beginning to understand the wide-ranging effects of smaller spills.

“Bunker fuel is used worldwide and is spilled relatively often,” said Gary Cherr, co-author of the study and director of the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory. “It is important to look at small spills in sensitive areas.”