In principle, all coastal countries with a natural marine environment and maritime activities within their territory are at risk of an oiled wildlife incident and should seek to establish an appropriate level of preparedness proportionate to that risk.
Sea Alarm dedicates a considerable amount of its staff time to make authorities and other stakeholders aware of this message, and assist them to develop the international instruments to be better prepared.
Sea Alarm does not work alone. Many organisations are supportive of Sea Alarm’s mission and where possible provide assistance and technical support, including e.g.:
- the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF)
- Oil Spill Response
- International Petroleum Industry Environment Conservation Association
- the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) and the Maritime Insurers (the so called Protection and Indemnity Clubs, or P&I Clubs)
- the European Commission
- the secretariats and executive bodies of the European regional conventions
- International NGO’s such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, World Wide Fund for Nature
- Wildlife responders (scientists, rehabilitators) with international experience and high professional standards
Sea Alarm tries to work closely with these bodies and organisations. All of them have been willing to share their experiences and have contributed over the years to improving the quality of Sea Alarm’s message and assisted with the development of tools and instruments.
In Europe, countries bordering the different regional seas have established regional agreements, e.g.:
- Bonn Agreement (North Sea States);
- HELCOM (Baltic Sea States); and
- Barcelona Convention (Mediterranean Sea States)
- The Bucharest Convention (Black Sea States).
Sea Alarm frequently attends the technical meetings of these bodies to present good practices and report on useful approaches and examples of practical solutions. Our activities have been fruitful and have already led to new international instruments and tools and round tables and planning activities in an increasing number of European countries.
A clear vision of how Europe can increase its level of preparedness was developed as part of a series of European projects that were co-financed by the European Commission in the period 2006-2009. Many guidance documents have been developed as part of these projects. The document that best summarises the need and objectives for cooperation and preparedness at a European level was published as the European Oiled Wildlife Response Plan. Interestingly, many activities are now taking place that contribute to the achievement of this vision. For instance, as part of the Helsinki Convention, the countries bordering the Baltic Sea have decided to integrate oiled wildlife response into the existing oil spill response plans. This means that an increased effort will take place in the coming years to build capacity in the region. It is expected that other regional conventions will follow this example and give more attention to this issue.
International meetings and conferences
In addition to attending regional meetings, Sea Alarm has on many occasions addressed the issue of oiled wildlife response and preparedness at international oil spill conferences where governments, professional organisations and industry companies meet. The most important of these include the International Oil Spill Conference, Interspill and SpillCon.
From its very start in 1999, Sea Alarm has been cooperating with European wildlife responders and responders from all over the world to improve their own preparedness and that of the authorities in their country. In 2009 Sea Alarm initiated EMPOWER (European Management Programme for Oiled Wildlife and other marine Emergency Responses) and founded this new network with eight other organisations. In 2010 and following years EMPOWER will increasingly provide a professional basis for European NGOs to perform in national emergencies. Sea Alarm fulfills the role of EMPOWER’s secretariat and will start a range of initiatives under the supervision of EMPOWER’s Steering Group.
Handbooks and Guidelines
Sea Alarm has been the main initiator and driving force in the development of a still increasing number of technical guidance documents, such as the IPIECA Guide to Oiled Wildlife Response Planning, the Handbook on Good Practices for Oiled Bird Rehabilitation and the Handbook on Impact Assessment. These documents are also instrumental in Sea Alarm’s advocacy mission. The information portal www.oiledwildlife.eu, which is hosted by Sea Alarm, is another important tool to convince stakeholders to plan for oiled wildlife response. This website provides a myriad of information and tools and provides access to quality information, reports and guidelines elsewhere on the web.