Alaska Legislature Honors Marine Conservation Biologist

A marine conservation biologist known for his work on constructive resolution of oil spills, including the Exxon Valdez, is being honored by Alaska legislators.

In a citation made public this week, Rick Steiner of Anchorage is saluted for an extraordinary career spanning nearly 30 years at the University of Alaska, and for calling for independent scientific analysis to determine damages and recovery strategies for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which proved disastrous for fishermen in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

Steiner said he was surprised and humbled by the accolades from legislators.

Steiner has also been a strong advocate of public structures and processes to prevent future spills. Recently he served as a key advisor on developing strategies to assess impacts and remedies to address the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

He has also spoken out at public hearings on his concerns about potentially adverse impacts to marine ecosystems from offshore oil and gas exploration. In late 2009, Steiner said he had lost a federal grant, which funded a portion of his work under the University of Alaska Sea Grant Program because of his outspoken criticism of the oil industry. His NOAA grant stripped by the university, because of his outspoken opposition to offshore oil development in the Bristol Bay region, Steiner resigned his academic post in early 2010, but has continued his global conservation work, including organizing an environmental damage assessment for the government of Lebanon after the massive eastern Mediterranean oil spill.