Trustees and Partners Announce Seabird Restoration Success on Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park, Offshore Southern California

Last edited 09/25/2020


Scripp’s murrelet (Synthliboramphus scrippsi), formerly known as Xantus’s murrelet, a small, black and white, nocturnal seabird, is shown in a sea cave nest on Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park, offshore southern California. Since the 2001 – 2002 eradication of the island's exotic black rats, the number of Scripp’s murrelet nests on Anacapa Island have quadrupled and hatching success has increased. Photo credit: Sarah Thomsen, Simon Fraser University.

On March 7, 2013 the federal and State natural resource trustees and cooperating partners announced the success of a seabird restoration project, after 10 years of monitoring, on Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park in the Channel Islands archipelago, offshore southern California. The project was undertaken as part of the restoration of natural resources injured by the 1990 T/V American Trader oil spill offshore Huntington Beach, California..

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • State of California, represented by California Department of Fish and Game (now called Department of Fish and Wildlife);
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The T/V American Trader, a single-hull tank vessel, spilled 416,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean off Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, on February 7, 1990 during a lightering operation at a sea berth. The spilled oil affected 60 square miles of Pacific Ocean from Long Beach south to the mouth of Santa Ana River in Laguna Beach and fouled 14 miles of ocean beaches. Natural resources and natural resource services were injured by the oil spill.

The federal trustees settled natural resource damage claims arising from the oil spill with three BP Companies in a Consent Decree entered by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on March 5, 1997. This settlement provided $2,484,566 plus interest ($487,174) to the trustees for restoration of migratory seabirds injured by the oil spill. The State of California settled its claims with the responsible parties in a separate Settlement Agreement.

The trustees released a publicly-reviewed, final Restoration Plan in April 2001 detailing preferred options for seabird restoration projects. One of these projects is “Seabird Nesting Habitat Restoration on Anacapa Island” which proposed restoring burrow-, crevice- and ground-nesting seabird habitat by eradicating exotic black rats. The black rat, introduced to Anacapa Island in the early 1900s, preys on seabird eggs and displaces seabird nests.

In cooperation with Island Conservation and Predatory Bird Research Group, the trustees implemented this black rat eradication project in two phases in 2001 and 2002 by applying a rodenticide bait via helicopter drop on the three islets comprising Anacapa Island. The $1.5 million project was funded by the settlement.

Now, 10 years after eradicating the predatory rats, the trustees report that the island’s seabirds are demonstrably benefiting from the restoration project. Ashy storm-petrels are now nesting on Anacapa Island for the first time. Cassin’s auklets have expanded their nesting territories on the island. The number of Scripp’s murrelet nests have increased four times and successful egg hatching has increased by 50%. Secondary benefits have been measured in the increased populations of native reptiles, native deer mice and native plants.

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