Apex Houston - Common Murre Restoration Project
Between 28 January and 4 February 1986, the barge Apex Houston discharged approximately 2,000 gallons of San Joaquin Valley Crude oil while in transit from San Francisco Bay to the Long Beach Harbor. The oil coated beaches from Monterey to Point Reyes. The spill killed approximately 9,000 seabirds including 6,000 Common Murres (Uria aalge). Several seabird breeding sites were impacted and the Common Murre colony at Devil's Slide Rock, just south of San Francisco, was abandoned.
The Common Murre Restoration Project employs a technique called Social Attraction to lure birds back to the rock. The project has been underway since January of 1996. Social attractants, including decoys of adult murres, decoys of murre chicks and eggs, CD players projecting amplified murre sounds, and three-sided mirror boxes, are being used to attract the highly colonial birds back to the rock. The project was incredibly successful in its first year, far exceeding expectations of the biologists and managers involved. Within 24 hours of establishing the social attraction design on the rock, birds began landing at the colony that had been abandoned for 10 years following the spill! The birds attended the rock regularly that year and fledged three chicks. The number of birds breeding on Devil's Slide Rock has continued to increase each year. 2001 was the most successful year to date, with over 100 breeding pairs on the rock. Plans are now underway to reduce the number of decoys on the rock in order to provide more space for breeding murres. As the number of murres on Devil's Slide Rock continues to increase the project comes closer to its ultimate goal of restoring a self-sustaining population of Common Murres to Devil's Slide Rock.