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See Restoration In Action: Common Murres at Devils Slide Rock

Date Posted: September 7, 2005

In 1986, common murres on Devils Slide Rock off Central California's coast were wiped out when the transportation barge Apex Houston discharged approximately 20,000 gallons of crude oil while in transit from San Francisco Bay to the Long Beach Harbor.

Following the oil spill, a federal and state lawsuit against the Apex Houston Company resulted in a settlement of $5.4 million for restoration, primarily for Common Murres. A trustee council, made up of representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and California Department of Fish and Game, was established to review, select, and oversee implementation of restoration actions for natural resources injured by the spill. The Service's San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex was chosen to lead the restoration efforts for murres.

Part of the restoration project involving the use of decoys, recorded calls, and mirrors to entice murres to return to Devils Slide Rock was initiated in 1996 by the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Six pairs of murres nested in 1996. Since then, the numbers have continued to increase. In 2004, a numbers peaked at 190.

On February 4, 2005 two video cameras were installed on Devil's Slide Rock. The cameras were installed to assist researchers monitoring the colony. This will be an invaluable tool for monitoring the birds on the rock. Both video cameras were installed on the top ridge of the rock, with one viewing the west side and one the east side of the rock. The camera on the west side also has an external microphone for listening to the colony. The pan, tilt, and zoom features of the cameras enable observers to get amazingly close views of the birds, their eggs and chicks too.

Thanks to Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel managers, people interested in getting a glimpse into the secret lives of the common murres can now watch the secluded seabirds from the Hostel, south of Pacifica. In addition, The National Audubon Society, a cooperator on the Common Murre Restoration Project, is hosting a live murre cam. Now anyone with internet connection can view live footage of the birds on Devil's Slide Rock.

Daniel Welsh (916) 414-6591

San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex:
- Common Murre Restoration Project:
- Live Murre Video on the Web

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Damage Assessment and Restoration Program: Case: Apex Houston Oil Spill

California Department of Fish and Game

Humboldt State University

National Audubon Society: Project Puffin - Common Murres

Point Montara Lighthouse

Last updated: June 12, 2015