Prince William Sound is home to a variety of bird species in winter

Frigid Alaska winters can be a tough time and place for wildlife. Food is scarce, the climate can be extreme, and days are short. Many species of birds head south.

However, some hardier species, such as marbled murrelets, common murres, pelagic cormorants, black-legged kittiwakes, and glaucous-winged gulls tough it out over the winter.

Since 2007, Dr. Mary Anne Bishop, a research ecologist at the Prince William Sound Science Center, has surveyed the Sound in fall and winter to document these bird species. This work is done on behalf of Gulf Watch Alaska, an ecosystem monitoring program funded by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. The Trustee Council documents the recovery of wildlife species after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The Council recently worked with Dr. Bishop and Anne Schaefer, the Center’s avian research assistant, to expand the survey area. The Council needed to know if marine birds congregated in areas around the Valdez Marine Terminal and near the tanker lanes. If a spill were to occur, these are the most likely areas for oil to come ashore.

Quick protection if a spill happens

When creating oil spill contingency plans, it is important to know where critical habitats are located. Plans can be created ahead of time that will help responders act fast to protect these areas before they are damaged.

The researchers noted specific areas to safeguard including Port Etches and Zaikof Bay near Hinchinbrook Entrance, the head of Port Valdez between the Valdez container terminal and the Valdez Glacier stream, and in southeastern Port Fidalgo.

This was the first of three years proposed for this study. The report notes that it is difficult to draw conclusions from a single year, because composition and density of birds can vary during the overwintering, non-breeding season.

The results of the survey will be available through the Alaska Ocean Observing System.

More information is available in the full report:

Marine Winter Bird Surveys In Prince William Sound (9.0 MB)

RFP: Long-Term Environmental Monitoring Program

Mussels

The Council is inviting proposals for a project to analyze petroleum hydrocarbon chemistry and associated data, and report on the results of analyzing that data.

This data is produced under PWSRCAC’s Long-Term Environmental Monitoring Program. That monitoring program generally entails the collection of blue mussels, marine sediments, and passive sampling devices in Port Valdez, Prince William Sound, and the Gulf of Alaska, then having them chemically analyzed for a suite of petroleum hydrocarbon constituents (e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, saturated hydrocarbons, and geochemical biomakers).

  • Proposal Deadline: December 15, 2021. 
  • Final Award Announcement by: January 14, 2022

Please note that this RFP is very similar to a previous RFP (# 951.22.05) issued in September 2021, but has an additional deliverable.

More information in the full RFP:

RFP - LTEMP Due December 15, 2021 (0.6 MB)

Questions

Q1 – Are other previous Long-Term Environmental Monitoring Program reports, in addition to the one cited in the RFP, available for review?
A1 – Yes, previous reports can be found here: Long-Term Environmental Monitoring .

Q2 – What was the additional deliverable added to the RFP, compared to the RFP issued in September 2021?
A2 – The new deliverable is the “Technical Supplement”, listed as #5 on pg. 9 of the RFP.

Q3 – Is the intended audience of the Summary Report, described on pg. 7-9 of the RFP, a departure from the environmental chemist audience of previous reports?
A3 – Yes, the intended audience of the Summary Report is a departure from previous LTEMP reports, which included technical details geared toward environmental chemists and other scientists. The intended audience of the Summary Report is described on pg. 7-8 of the RFP:

The report should be prepared with policymakers in mind, specifically the following audiences: the staff and volunteers of PWSRCAC, staff from Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, and state and federal regulators – none of whom are experts in the field of environmental forensic chemistry or marine toxicology.

The intended audience of the Summary Report is not the same as the audience of the Technical Supplement, described on pg. 9 of the RFP. The audience of the Technical Supplement is as follows:

The intended audience of the technical supplement are scientists familiar with the aforementioned results and associated laboratory and field methods. The technical supplement is not intended to be a stand-alone report, rather it is intended to provide additional information that supports the data and results described in the summary report. The summary report should be a stand-alone document written for a general audience as described, with reference to the technical supplement as appropriate.

Q4 – In regards to the Data Management deliverable, would proposing additional scope, beyond what’s described for that deliverable, be acceptable in a proposal for potential implementation?
A4 – Yes, proposals are welcome to include additional scope, expanding on current deliverables, or even including new deliverables, beyond what is requested in the RFP. Such additive scope or new deliverables would be considered by the Council’s RFP review team, with no guarantee of their acceptance. Any proposal should, at a minimum, describe how it will achieve the scope and deliverables detailed in the RFP. If additional scope or deliverables are included in a proposal, such additions should be made clear in the narrative and their associated costs should be easily identified or differentiated from the scope and deliverables requested in the RFP.

Additional questions about this RFP? 

Please contact the project’s manager, Austin Love.

RFQ: Valdez Marine Terminal Operations and Maintenance Monitoring

Valdez Marine Terminal
Valdez Marine Terminal

The Council is seeking a qualified engineering firm, specializing in the integrity management of crude oil terminal facilities, to provide technical support for the Council’s Terminal Operations and Environmental Monitoring Program. The goal of that program is to prevent hazardous liquid spills and minimize the actual and potential environmental impacts associated with the operation and maintenance of the Valdez Marine Terminal.

Deadline: November 4, 2021 at 5:00p.m.
Award announcement: November 18, 2021

Please read the full list of services requested and expertise in the full Request for Qualifications:

RFQ: Valdez Marine Terminal Operations and Maintenance Monitoring (1.4 MB)

How has subsistence harvest changed over time in the Exxon Valdez oil spill region?

This graphic image demonstrates how the number of different resources harvested by the average household decreased over time. In 2003, 21 different types of resources were harvested. In 2014, the average household harvested just 13 different types. Data compiled from five Alaska communities: Tatitlek, Cordova, Chenega, Port Graham, and Nanwalek.
Image of the word subsistence, which is defined in the image caption.
A way of life that includes the harvest and use of wild resources for food, raw materials, and other traditional uses. Subsistence has been a central part of the customs and traditions of many cultural groups in Alaska for centuries. Download the report: Recovery Of A Subsistence Way Of Life (PDF) or the report summary: Study Overview – Recovery Of A Subsistence Way Of Life (PDF)

The Exxon Valdez oil spill changed the harvest and use of wild resources in Southcentral Alaska. Various anecdotal reasons such as concerns about oil contamination meant folks were hesitant to use these traditional resources.

The Council recently partnered with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Subsistence to study and document why and how the spill affected subsistence harvesting activities, both immediately after the spill and in the years since.

Fish and Game researchers analyzed data collected from the communities of Cordova, Chenega, Tatitlek, Port Graham, and Nanwalek from 1984 to 2014.

That data confirmed that harvesting decreased during the first few years after the spill, but numbers started recovering around two to three years after the spill. Overall, the rates increased steadily through the 1990s and into the 2000s. By 2014, however, two important facts became apparent.

Reduced diversity of harvested species

This graphic image demonstrates how the number of different resources harvested by the average household decreased over time. In 2003, 21 different types of resources were harvested. In 2014, the average household harvested just 13 different types. Data compiled from five Alaska communities: Tatitlek, Cordova, Chenega, Port Graham, and Nanwalek. Harvesters collect fewer types of resources than before the spill. Fortunately, the surveys tracked more than just numbers. Interviews with residents pointed to several causes, which changed over time.

While the drop immediately after the 1989 spill was mainly attributed to concerns about safety, this was less of a concern in more recent years. Among other causes, interviewees blamed overharvesting by both locals and hunters from outside the community.

A Nanwalek elder interviewed in 2014 noted that easy-to-access locations suffered the most. “Some people don’t have boats so they can’t go too far,” the elder told the surveyors. “They don’t even give ‘em a chance to get bigger.”

Fewer households harvesting more of the resources

Another discovery is that harvesting activities have become more concentrated. In later years, a smaller proportion of households harvested a relatively larger proportion of the resources.

For example, data for sockeye salmon harvests in Tatitlek shows that in 1987, the top 1/3 of the harvesters collected about 55% of the combined total. In 2014, the top 1/3 collected over 90%.

Sometimes those harvests are not shared with the community.

“The oil spill in one way was worse for subsistence and traditional community culture because it gave everyone money, and this gave them the ability for each individual to have their own boat motor,” noted an elder from Nanwalek in 2014. “Lots of people ended up doing subsistence only for themselves and overall, people shared [a lot] less together.”

How does this information help?

This project is helping the Council assess the potential long-term social consequences of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and other factors that may affect subsistence harvests in the spill-affected region. These effects are critical to document to help plan and be prepared in case of a future oil spill.

More about this report:

Watch a presentation by the researchers on our YouTube channel:

Download the report summary:

Study Overview - Recovery Of A Subsistence Way Of Life (1.0 MB)

Download the full report:

Recovery Of A Subsistence Way Of Life (2.9 MB)

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