Oil spill monitoring

Monitoring an oil spill is necessary to address concerns raised about its effects and the impact of the associated cleanup response.

Oil spill response requires significant amounts of robust information to allow decision makers and responders to do the best job possible. Successful oil spill response is based on science, intelligence, experience, and standard techniques and protocols to allow for interpretation of data for decision making. Experience comes from local incidents and through international interaction.

Much of what guides spill response relates to the following questions:

  • Situational awareness—what happened, where, are people at risk, and how much oil is in the ocean?
  • Risk assessment—what will happen to the oil, where will it go, and what and who will it affect?
  • Response options—can the pollution be cleaned up, and how?
  • Outcomes and effects—what happens to oil not removed from the ocean or shoreline?
  • Effectiveness—how do we know if the response is working?

The answers to these questions may seem reasonably straightforward. In reality, oil spills often occur in remote, sensitive and logistically difficult locations, in adverse weather and with oil that weathers and changes character over time. All of this requires robust information provided by baseline and post-spill monitoring, observation, sampling and science. 2017-06-mp-oil-spill-monitoring-background-paper.pdf

CSIRO oil spill monitoring handbook

The 2016 Oil Spill Monitoring Handbook is published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), as an independent authoritative guide to spill monitoring. Copies are available for purchase from CSIRO publications, or for .

We sought CSIRO’s assistance to ensure all people responsible for responding to oil spills have access to the most up-to-date monitoring science, methods and advice. CSIRO is an independent, trusted science adviser to the National Plan.

The handbook has been designed to be both a reference in 2016 and to evolve, so additional information will be published online over time. Although primarily designed for Australian use, it has worldwide relevance.

Related information

Last updated: 9 November 2020