GULF OF MEXICO. - MAY 09: Oil is seen on the surface of the water from the massive oil spill on May 9, 2010 in Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by BP is leaking an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf and the slick has now reached nearby land. Efforts to contain the spill, including a 98-ton containment box to cap the leak, have done little to slow its flow. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Jackie Dragon, the marine sanctuaries program director for Pacific Environment, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco, said there are precautionary measures available to prevent oil spills that still aren't being used.
Dragon said that unless the state requires and enforces tougher measures, oil spills will continue to wreak havoc on the Bay.
Fred Felleman, an environmental consultant from Seattle who works with Friends of the Earth, said regulators should require pre-booming, which is the process of surrounding vessels, facilities or dock areas involved in transferring oil.
Felleman said pre-booming is a simple preventive measure that can minimize an oil spill and "give you the jump on it."
He said once an oil spill spreads, "the genie is out of the bottle."
Dragon and Felleman were two in a long list of speakers at a public forum called "Oil Spills in San Francisco Bay: Preparing a Better Response."
The forum, held at the state building in downtown Oakland, focused on two of the biggest Bay spills in the past three years: that of the Cosco Busan container ship, which dumped more than 53,000 gallons of oil into the Bay in November 2007, and the Dubai Star oil tanker, which caused an 800-gallon spill in October 2009.
Both spills killed birds and other wildlife and oiled beaches, marshes, and other Bay habitats.
Speakers said the conference is timely, given the massive ongoing oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico.
The event was organized by Pacific Environment and a coalition of San Francisco Bay stakeholders called the San Francisco Estuary Partnership.
Scott Schaefer, the deputy administrator for the California Department of Fish and Game, said one of the lessons his agency learned from the Cosco Busan spill is to involve local governments as soon as possible so they know what's going on and can contribute their own assets to cleanup efforts.
Schaefer said the state is also adding on-scene coordinators to help get everyone on the same page in responding to oil spills.
Capt. Paul Gugg, the commander of the U.S. Coast Guard sector in San Francisco, said, "We're much better off than we were before in terms of networking and communications" than before the Cosco Busan spill.
"There are things we could have done better and the response to the Dubai Star went better than the response to the Cosco Busan did," he said.