OC oil spill: Over 2 dozen oiled birds recovered; wildlife greatly impacted

Crews are working around the clock to recover and help as many animals as possible that may be affected by the oil spill in Huntington Beach.

As of Friday, 25 oiled birds were recovered alive, 10 birds were found dead. According to Michael Ziccardi, Director of Oiled Wildlife Care Network, seven live oiled snowy plovers were recovered. These birds are a federally protected species.

The number of animals harmed is likely to increase; sea lions, dolphins and whales are likely to start washing up in a couple weeks.

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"For marine mammals in this area often times the effects are more chronic, long term. We learned that inhalation of fumes can cause problems for the lungs and other issues related to ingestion," Ziccardi said Wednesday during a press conference. 

Several oiled birds that were recovered were taken to a primary care center for washing and rehabilitation. Several oiled fish have also been recovered, however the exact number is not known. 

A total of 5 aircrafts, 18 boats and 750 people are supporting the cleanup efforts. According to Unified Command,  they anticipate on having up to 1,500 helpers by the end of this week.

Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr described the situation as a "potential ecologic disaster,"

Effects on marine life could take weeks and even months to be seen. Sea lions, for example, are not as susceptible to oil as birds, at least not their coats. However, their systems cannot process contaminated fish or globs of ingested oil tar.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is an approximate 1,300-acre coastal estuary with habitats including open water, mudflats, salt marsh, coastal dunes, seabird nesting islands, riparian, and freshwater marsh. State officials said the reserve is also home to more than 200 avian species which attracts birders and photographers.

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Marine life is also found on the reserve with over 60 species of marine fishes such as marine invertebrates, and occasionally the California sea lion and green sea turtle.

Multiple rare and endangered plants are on the reserve including California seablite, woolly seablite, coast woolly-heads and red sand verbena. 

Unified Command is looking for volunteers to help with cleanup efforts. Anyone interested can visit their website at calspillwatch.wildlife.ca.gov/volunteer.

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