IOSA Offers Trainings in Oil Spill Response

Islands’ Oil Spill Association has received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for trainings over the next 17 months. This will boost IOSA’s training program for responders in oil spill response.

Sea Goose, Golden Eagle and boom: IOSA’s main response vessel the Sea Goose at the sinking of the Golden Eagle, where oil containment boom has been set around the boat to trap any oil that may leak.

Volunteers are integral to IOSA’s ability to respond to oil spills. IOSA needs new volunteers! All that is needed is a desire to help at an oil spill.

IOSA is a community based local non-profit organization whose focus is on protecting San Juan County from small to large oil spills through the use of oil containment equipment and trained local responders. IOSA responders also do search, rescue and initial care of oiled birds. As a part of the larger oil spill response community in Washington State, IOSA also works with the various agencies and spill response contractors to protect the great ecosystem that is the San Juan Islands.

A volunteer on the Skookum strikes an oikomi pipe. Photo by Lindy McMorran

Oil containment boom set in a diamond shape to capture any oil leaking from the sunken vessel the Swan.  

Boom set in a V shape in the faster current at the entrance to Westcott Bay during a drill. The strategy calls for sets of V shaped containment boom to be positioned in two rows to catch any oil that escapes the first set of V’s, due to the fast current. Photo by Robyn Albro

IOSA responders on IOSA’s other main response vessel the Green Heron attach an anchor line to the bottom of the boom, prior to pulling the boom into a v shape and setting the anchor at a drill in Smallpox Bay. Photo by Robyn Albro


Between now and October there will be three drills to test strategies for protecting sensitive bays on the west and north of San Juan Island. During the drill, volunteers will be learning about setting oil containment boom. At a drill in the fall, Western Canada Marine Response Corp. will be working with IOSA on a drill north of San Juan Island. IOSA volunteers have tested each of the 70 Geographic Response Plan Strategies at least once and many of them two, three or more times ( )

Other trainings to be offered this year are in Search and Capture of Oiled Birds, Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (safety training required for all IOSA oil spill responders who might be near oil), and training in Air Monitoring of an oil spill (specialized training to test for hazardous gases at an oil spill).

Deterring Orca from Oil Spills

The first training exercise held this year was off Henry Island on May 12th and responders practiced techniques to deter Orca from a large oil spill. The drill involved forming a line with nine boats, and then oikomi pipes were hung from the side of the boats into the water (8’ long pipes made with reverberant metal) and were hit with a striker every two seconds to make a discordant noise. The sound is not harmful to the whales. This technique was successfully used in Barnes Lake Alaska to move a pod of Orca out of a lake they would not leave due to a shallow entrance and a strong incoming current.

Many different types of boats were used and it was a challenge with the different size boats and varying shapes of the keels to keep the boats in as close to a line as possible. The volunteers did a great job of figuring out the best way to hang the pipes from the boats. The boat captains were very skillful in keeping their boats lined up. Another strategy was tried with the boats lined up in a U shape to see if that worked better in terms of disseminating the sound outwards. Dr. Val Viers of Orcasound Lab recorded the sounds with his hydrophone so they can be analyzed later (at IOSA’s last exercise five years ago the sound levels were from 118 to 132 decibels).

Eight boats from San Juan County and one from Whatcom County participated in the exercise with 37 volunteers. Participants came from Washington State Parks, Phillips 66, Pacific Whale Watch Operators, Whatcom County Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and all over San Juan County. IOSA thanks everyone who gave of their time to participate in this exercise!

Lynne Barre of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Don Noviello of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife both declared it a successful exercise.

For the upcoming Orca deterrence drill in 2019, IOSA encourages more whale watch operators and boat captains to volunteer their time and boats to participate. More participation of people with boats are needed who would not be setting oil spill containment boom or searching for oiled wildlife in the event of a large oil spill. Please contact IOSA via their website if you are interested in participating in the hazing exercise next year.

Upcoming Trainings

The next training session will be on Lopez, Saturday June 2, 2018 on search and rescue of oiled birds. The next oil containment drill will be on Saturday June 9th on the west side of San Juan Island. IOSA invites anyone who is interested to preregister on the IOSA website at or call the IOSA office at 360-468-3441.


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