FILE - In this May 2, 1998 file photo, people attend the official opening of the Alaska SeaLife Center, a wildlife hospital and research center on the shores of Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska SeaLife Center has announced plans to become a first responder for marine mammals affected by oil spills in western Alaska. The Juneau Empire reported the nonprofit center in Seward says a new partnership with the Alaska Chadux Network will greatly expand the center’s service area. SeaLife Center is the state’s only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility. Chadux Network is an oil spill response organization with 17 equipment hubs and the capacity for 24-hour response. Network President Buddy Custard says melting Arctic sea ice will open shipping lanes and potentially increase spills and encounters with marine mammals.