History & Mission
The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) was a manmade disaster in which an oil tanker ran aground and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine Prince William Sound. For over 20 years, this was the worst oil spill in U.S. history; oil covered over 1,300 miles of coastline. And more than 30 years later, like the pockets of crude oil you can find on the beaches, this page is here to serve as a reminder that even though there is an abundance of life in the intertidal zone, lingering oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill still exists under the surface throughout Prince William Sound.
CRRC was formally incorporated in the crucible of the Exxon Valdez disaster and responded in every way with an extremely limited budget. CRRC
engaged with the EVOSTC following the Exxon settlement.
Many local Native experts of the region formed teams with the biologists studying paticular species, in order to exchange information and work together to gather data. In other cases, some communities engaged in enhancement and replacement projects. Sockeye salmon runs were temporarily created to replace natural fish runs that were damaged by the spill. CRRC engaged by spearheading clam beds on subsistence beaches, which had been first disrupted by the 1964 earthquake, and later—just when they were recovering—oiled by the spill. This enhancement effort resulted in significant new information regarding the life cycle of clams.
A young woman from Cordova, born after the spill in 1995, stated, “My Uppa [Grandfather] lost value in his herring permit. [He] lost millions of dollars to fishing that didn’t happen” as a result of the spill. She cited “generational trauma passed down” as a continued spill impact to her life. She also said, “If you dig down on some beaches, you will still find oil.” Even though she was born after the spill she said, she hears about it “regularly” from family members, and that it has negatively impacted their lives. She believes that her community would be richer, both in resources and monetarily had the spill not occurred. She listed salmon, herring, puffins, crustaceans, and killer whales as species still impacted by the spill. Like the other Cordova residents who responded to the survey, she cited better spill response preparedness as an improvement since 1989, but she cautioned that “the response team is only for certain areas and [certain] responsible parties.” Asked if the spill still impacts her community today, she responded, “Yes. We still have no herring, and our ecosystem is still so fragile.”
A Nanwalek resident indicated that the spill still affects his life but said he is “not current if some sea food is safe.”
He indicated that if it had not been for the spill, he would still be a commercial fisherman today. He said that the spill does not affect his family today as much as it used to but that his community relies more on store-bought food today because of the spill.
A woman from Port Graham stated “I worry about the oil effects on our subsistence food.” She indicated that she’s “not sure if any are safe to eat.” She said that if the spill had not happened, “we would have more fish and the fishing industry would be thriving.” She believes that the Port Graham cannery, which is now shut down, would still be operating today if the spill had not happened. She has strong opinions about how the spill settlement dollars have been used by the EVOS Trustee Council, saying, “The injustice of how funds are distributed by EVOS. [The money] does not even go to the affected communities.” She says that the Chugach region would be different had the spill not happened because “[The village corporation] lands would never have been sold, [and the] corporations running fisheries would have thrived.” She mentions several important harvest areas that still have oil in them, though also states that some subsistence resources impacted by the spill, including chitons and mussels, have finally come back.