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Wildlife experts investigating washed up tar balls on Cayucos beaches

Posted at 5:00 PM, Dec 13, 2019

Black, sticky and stinky tar balls have been washing up on Central Coast beaches and making a mess for beachgoers.

Experts with the California Fish and Wildlife Department say tar balls are often found in Cayucos, Morro Bay Harbor and Port San Luis and can come from natural ocean floor seepage after storms.

Some residents in Cayucos say they have seen an especially large number of tar balls recently. One man took it upon himself to clean up big chunks at the Morro Bay Dog Beach.

"Monday I came here and there were so many tar balls on the beach it offended my sense of the cleanliness of the beach and it made it so that I was afraid to bring my dog here because he would get oil on him," said Walter Ramage, Cayucos resident.

Wildlife experts said there is no serious public health threat, but if animals digest it, it could be harmful. They advise people from visiting the affected beach areas.

Some people worry the asphalt-like substances could cause cosmetic and economic concerns.

"If a tourist comes here and the high point of their vacation is trying to get tar off their skin, clothing or dogs, they won't come back," Ramage said.

The lumps of weathered oil can be messy and difficult to remove from skin and clothes if you come in contact with it.

"I've stepped in two of them and it's not really fun, especially when you don't really notice them until you walk in your house and there are black spots all over the floor and it's really hard to get off too," said Dylan Rode, beachgoer.

If you accidentally come into contact with a tar ball, experts say to rinse the affected area with fresh water, scrape the excess tar from your skin and apply a grease removing agent or mineral oil.

Some beachgoers are asking officials to clean up the tar balls, however state officials say there is not clean-up protocol unless there is a large seepage that impacts the beach.

CA Fish and Wildlife tells KSBY experts recently investigated reports of tar balls and oil-contaminated birds in Monterey County and determined the source was ocean floor seepage of the Monterey Formation.

They believe what happened there is happening here on Central Coast beaches, but they are still looking into it and will be surveying the beach to determine if the tar balls are in fact from natural seepage.