Common Murres at necropsy illustrating types of human-related mortality: entanglement and oiling.
The Seabird Health Program provides a regional information center regarding marine bird mortality events for federal, state, and local resource managers and is based out of California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Marine Wildlife and Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz.
Marine birds are important indicators of marine ecosystem health as their abundance and mortality can provide indication of natural (such as changes in forage fish abundance) and human-related (chronic oiling, entanglement) changes in the coastal marine ecosystem. The main objectives of the Seabird Health Program are to design and conduct studies to investigate and monitor the health and pathology of marine birds to support the best achievable care of oiled wildlife and detect emerging threats to seabird populations. We also develop and conduct investigations to monitor the effects of chronic and unusual oiling events, and maintain readiness to respond to oil spills affecting wildlife.
We work collaboratively to gather regional data from beach survey programs, rehabilitation centers, and state and federal agencies. During unusual mortality events, we conduct post-mortem examinations of seabirds and work in conjunction with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Petroleum Chemistry Lab and Wildlife Investigations Lab, USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Madison, WI; Wildlife Health Center, University of CA at Davis, California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory; Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and other laboratories to identify cause of mortality.