Chesapeake Bay Field Office -- On the Wild Side! - Athos 1 Oil Spill

The Athos I oil spill occurred on November 27th, and by the 30th the news hit most major media outlets along the eastern seaboard. Approximately 265,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from the Athos I cargo and ballast tanks near Philadelphia, affecting over 57 miles of shoreline along the Delaware River and its tributaries.

The marshes and tributaries of the Delaware River provide stopover and wintering habitat for waterfowl and Canada geese as they migrate along the Atlantic flyway. In addition, the federally endangered shortnose sturgeon overwinters in the Delaware River, and several pairs of bald eagles nest in the area.


Athose 1 oil tanker leaking oil into the Delaware River - USFWS photo
Athos1 listing in the Delaware River near Citgo refinery
. USFWS photo


The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is just one of many federal, state, and emergency management agencies that respond to an oil spill. Service biologists work in the Incident Command Center to assess the damage to fish and wildlife habitats and prevent oil from causing additional harm to natural resources. The following agencies also responded to the Athos 1 Incident Command Center:

  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
  • Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
  • Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
  • Pennsylvania Game Commission
  • Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

The Incident Command Center is also responsible for keeping the media and public informed about the oil spill and oil clean-up progress. Hunters concerned about oiled waterfowl, fisherman alarmed about fish and shellfish harvesting, boaters worried about recreational opportunities, and oiled wildlife visiting private lands were just some of issues the Service responded to.

In the field, Service biologists worked with USDA Wildlife Services and Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, Inc. to capture and rehabilitate hundreds of oiled birds, as well as some small mammals and reptiles. Other Service staff surveyed the spill’s effects on wildlife habitat and advised the Incident Command Center how to prevent additional damage to natural resources.

Although the oil spill Incident Command Center has closed down, Service biologists continue to determine the extent and severity of the damage caused to natural resources, as part of our responsibility as “trustees’ for these resources. Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, a Trustee is a federal, state or tribal organization responsible for natural resources impacted as a result of the spill. The Service is one of the Trustees who identifies the magnitude of natural resources injured and recovers damages from those responsible. However, the natural resource damage assessment and restoration process can take months, even years, before the compensation of lost resources is fulfilled.

For more information:

Delaware River Oil Spill Public Information Site

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Oil Spill Preparation and Response

Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program


Two heavily-oiled Canada  geese - USFWS photo
Heavily-oiled Canada geese. USFWS photo

Canada goose undergoing cleaning by Tri-State Bird Rescue - Tri-State photo
Canada goose undergoing treatment. Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research photos

Rescuers cleaning oiled birds - Tri-State photo

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