April 29 - 1999: Rare right whale dies after collision on Bay

2003: Bouchard dumps 98,000 gallons of oil in Buzzards Bay
This 50-ton, 45-foot right whale, washed onto a Wellfleet beach. See full photo below.

1999: Boat hits rare right whale in Cape Cod Bay

50-ton, 45-foot right whale ended up on a Wellfleet beach

On April 28, 1999, the Boston Globe reported that despite a surveillance plane patrolling the waters and a special state warning for boaters to avoid the rare Northern right whales in Cape Cod Bay, one of the animals was apparently struck by a boat before she died last week, according to preliminary autopsy results released yesterday.

A necropsy of this 50-ton, 45-foot right whale, washed onto a beach in Wellfleet, Mass in 1999, showed a broken jaw, five fractured vertebrae, damage to the left flipper, and internal bleeding. The whale, known to researchers as Staccato (photo shown larger below), was a mature female that had given birth to many calves.

Bad Weather Hinders Rescue

Poor visibility today prevented a team of marine scientists from attempting a hazardous at-sea rescue of an endangered North Atlantic right whale discovered more than two weeks ago entangled in what is believed to be fishing line.

Another effort is planned for Tuesday, but time is running out. The whale, a 50-foot mature male now less than 100 miles southeast of Provincetown, is likely to die if not set free, scientists said.

2003: Bouchard barge dumps 98,000 gallons of fuel oil in Buzzards Bay

Cost of clean-up will be over $40 million

On Sunday April 27, 2003, the Tank Barge Bouchard No. 120 struck rocks south of Westport, MA, when it passed on the wrong side of a navigational marker at the entrance of Buzzards Bay. The resulting 12-foot gash on the bottom of the hull released an estimated 98,000 Number 6 fuel oil in Buzzards Bay. The vessel was on route to deliver oil at the Mirant electricity generation facility located on the Cape Cod Canal.

A large fraction of the released oil washed ashore at Barneys Joy beach in Dartmouth the next day, but because of shifting winds and rough seas in the days following the spill, oil continued to wash ashore for more than two weeks eventually landing on more than 90 miles of shoreline. The spill impacted a variety of natural resources, including wildlife (mostly birds, with 500 found dead), salt marshes, rocky shorelines, recreational beaches, and shellfish beds, which were closed for many months after the spill in some areas to protect human health.

The emergency response phase of the cleanup, overseen by the US Coast Guard was terminated by September 2003. Non-emergency cleanup activities continued after that date under the Massachusetts' hazardous waste spill laws, through a required Massachusetts Contingency Plan (see the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Cleanup Status page here). Most areas were cleaned pursuant to the Massachusetts' law by 2004, but cleanup activities continued at a small number of difficult sites through the fall of 2007.

Separate from the state and federal clean-up activities (estimated to have cost more than $40 million dollars), and separate from the $9 million dollars in fines levied by the federal government in 2004 (as part of a criminal liability settlement), the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) has been ongoing, and has involved state and federal scientists reviewing all the data associated with the spill to determine the full extent of environment impacts and damages. Based on the findings of the NRDA, additional environmental restoration actions will be required by the responsible party, the Bouchard Transport Company. The NRDA process is expected to be complete in 2008.

Read our other stories about this oil spill here.

Cape Cod Today file photos.

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