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Archive 2004

Sea Alarm tightens its bonds with rehabilitators in Europe

October 2003, Sea Alarm has sent out a questionnaire to over 140 recipients all over Europe, mainly organisations and individuals that are active in wildlife rehabilitation. In this way, Sea Alarm hopes to encourage rehabilitators in 19 countries to join forces and work towards a greater preparedness to respond to oiled wildlife incidents in Europe.

By responding to the questionnaire, recipients could express e.g. how they feel about Sea Alarm, Sea Alarm’s work, and the way they would like to participate in the initiative themselves. Another part of the questionnaire aimed at shedding a light on the already existing preparedness at the recipient’s own national level. The information will become part of Sea Alarm’s information system.

The impact of the Tricolor spill on seabirds

In January 2003, the sunken autocarrier Tricolor leaked oil after a series of collisions by passing coasters and a salvage vessel. The oil was spilled in an important wintering area for seabirds and the effect was immediately clear. Many thousands of casualties reached the French and Belgian coasts alive, thousands of seabirds died and washed ashore in four countries around The French Channel.

The Dutch Seabird Group (NZG) became involved when numerous casualties and large quantities of oil washed ashore in the Delta area (Zeeland and Zuid-Holland). With a team of volunteers, 2 tonnes of oiled birds were collected and dissected to obtain important data on the species, sex and age composition of the casualties. The first impression was that the worst fears had become true: mainly adult birds in excellent condition, the vital part of any breeding population, had been killed.

With a one-day symposium, the NZG plans to evaluate the impact of the Tricolor spill and this announcement is a first call for papers. The meeting is currently planned for 18 October 2003, place of venue Waterland Neeltje Jans in Zeeland, The Netherlands. Participation is free of charge and the conference is open for all interested people.

Contributions for this symposium, either in the form of oral presentations or as posters, should be submitted not later than 31 July 2003. Submissions will be discussed and reviewed in August, so that a final conference programme should be available later that month.

Seventh Effects of Oil on Wildlife Symposium: Call for Papers

This is second call for papers for the Seventh Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference which will take place in Hamburg, Germany, October 14-16, 2003, hosted by International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The Effects of Oil on Wildlife (EOW) is a multidisciplinary conference whose goal is the mitigation of the effects of oil pollution on aquatic wildlife.

This meeting is a forum for those working in fields related to oil pollution and its effects on wildlife. The specific aim of the conference is to facilitate an exchange of information among peers; biologists, veterinarians, rehabilitators, government wildlife representatives, environmental NGOs and any other individuals or organizations interested in improving the planning prevention and response to oil pollutions impacts on wildlife.

Planned sessions include:

  • Resources at risk
  • Planning and prevention
  • Chronic oiling
  • Rehabilitation: management & techniques
  • Marine mammals and reptiles
  • Wildlife response case histories (Prestige, Tricolor, Treasure)
  • New technologies for wildlife response
  • Evaluation and post release studies

Communications, in English, are invited as oral or poster presentations.

Oil Pollution and Conservation of Biodiversity

Between 17 and 20 October 2002, scientists, oiled wildlife responders and maritime experts gathered in Porto Torres, Sardinia (Italy), for a conference dealing with the threat of oil spills to biological diversity.

Organised by Medmaravis, the Asinara National Park and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, speakers addressed various threats to the Mediterranean marine biodiversity, in particular oil spills. Six conference sessions were scheduled around the following subjects: The importance of oil spillages, Oil pollution prevention, Impact and conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity, Role of port and local authorities, Oiled wildlife rehabilition, Post spill research and follow-up programme.

One of the products of the Conference was a call for action, the Asinara Declaration. The proceedings of the Sardinia Conference will be published shortly, in English and Italian.

Wildcare Forum 2003

14/15 March 2003, Inverness
Each year since 1991 an event has been held in Inverness for all people working with orphaned and injured wildlife. Initially the Forum was aimed largely at people working in Scotland but now delegates and speakers come from all over the UK and Europe.

The aim is to provide a forum for discussion and learning for everyone working in the field of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation from large organisations such as the RSPCA to the one person operation who works on a small scale.

Topics covered over the years have included veterinary subjects, first aid, accommodation for casualties, and release and monitoring. This year there were many topical issues which needed to be discussed and so the programme included an update on the Seal Virus, Bat Rabies, Zoonoses and the work of an SSPCA inspector.

In addition the main part of the afternoon was an exercise led by Jim Conroy of Sea Alarm on how we would react to an oil spill – co-ordination of response; finding out what wildlife is effected and potential survival; setting up emergency facilities; bringing in volunteers and problems with accommodation, etc.

All these aspects are vitally important in improving response in any emergency situation and by conducting this exercise all delegates gained a better insight into the whole problem rather than just the narrow view of their own special expertise.

Belgians visit RSPCA

“It has been a very useful, informative trip” so said Claude Velter after a visit to various RSPCA wildlife hospitals in early April. Claude, Belgium’s wildlife response coordinator during the Tricolor spill, is the head of the Bird Rehabilitation Centre in Ostend.

This small, rehabilitation centre is soon to be replaced by a new wildlife hospital. The trip, which Sea Alarm organised, was meant to study building and management concepts for the new Belgian facility. It was logical that Claude, responsible for developing the plan to be submitted to an architect, should look to the RSPCA for advice.

The Society assisted in the Tricolor response, and has a long history of cleaning oiled birds, as well as in designing and building wildlife hospitals. The Belgian delegation visited facilities in Hastings, Kings Lynn and Cornwall. Each visit was also a small reunion with those RSPCA officers who had attended the Tricolor spill.

“Building the new permanent rehabilitation centre in Ostend is only one of the activities that has been speeded up by the Tricolor” Claude said. “The spill also made the authorities aware that an oiled wildlife contingency plan must be developed. The Flemish Banks is amongst the most vulnerable bird areas in the North Sea. A similar incident may again happen in the future and then we should be better prepared”.

Black Tide Conference Terschelling (Netherlands)

The Prestige incident alarmed several European countries and made them examine their oil spill contingency plans. At a recent meeting in the Netherlands examined the oil spill contingency plan for the Wadden Sea Area.

At present neither a plan for the Wadden Sea or a regionally specific oiled wildlife contingency plan exist. This was the reason for the Wadden Sea authorities to organise the meeting and invite the important Dutch players to discusshow an incident such as Prestige might be dealt with. Although wildlife problems were not specifically addressed by the meeting, it became clear from the discussions that in the field of general response coordination much can still be improved.

Tricolor Spill

The Tricolor, a Norwegian car carrier, sank following a collision in one of the major shipping routes of the North Sea off the coast of Dunkerque, France. After sinking in relatively shallow waters (30 m depth), the side of the vessel lies only a few meters below the surface of the sea at high tide.

The wreck caused an immediate threat to shipping, in what is one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. The first incident happened within 48 hours of the Tricolor sinking, when the Nicola crashed into the wreck. She could, however, be pulled clear and appeared not to suffer serious damage.

Two weeks later, on 1 January 1t, the Vicky, carrying 70,000 tonnes of highly flammable gas oil struck the submerged Tricolor. Some of its dangerous cargo was lost, but the Vicky was pulled clear and sailed to Rotterdam.

On Friday, 23 January new serious problem arose when the lid of an oil compartment was damaged during an oil pumping operation being undertaken by salvage company Smit International. Some 170 tons of fuel oil leaked into the sea.

Although a relatively small amount, when compared with international records on oil spill incidents, it quickly grew into one of the most serious incidents in Europe for birds. Thousands of birds were collected dead and alive from beaches in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Sea Alarm’s involvement in the Tricolor response in Belgium

Between 25 January and 27 February 2003, the Sea Alarm Foundation responded to the Tricolor oil spill in Belgium where an unusually large number of birds were recovered oiled. Sea Alarm responded to a request by the Belgian authorities.

The Foundation’s activities included a number of services to the Belgian wildlife response coordinator: general advice, strategy development, day to day management, coordination between parties, link to ITOPF and P&I Club, assistance with financial management, coordination of international assistance, international transportation of birds, animal welfare. Download the report (PDF, 63 kb).

Prestige Spill

On 13 November 2002, the tanker “Prestige” suffered hull damage near the coast of Galicia (Spain). It was towed to open sea where a few days later, on 19 November, the single hulled vessel broke in two and sank in water some 3.5 km deep, and about 275 km west of Vigo.

Before it sank, the tanker lost 20,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, but after sinking continued to leak oil in amounts of ca 125 tons a day through a series of holes.

When the tanker broke in two, spilling ten thousands tons of oil west of Galicia, it was clear that bird and mammal populations were at risk along hundreds of kilometres of coastline. The Galician coast is well known for as a key site on the wintering migration routes of Atlantic seabirds. Some important internationally protected bird reserves, including RAMSAR sites are also located here. In addition, Galicia contains an important population of Eurasian otters, and is an area where dolphins and marine turtles occur.

Within a few days of the start of the incident, oil landed on beaches and the first dead and live birds started washing ashore. Local authorities and specialist organisations became active to organise the necessary wildlife activities and international groups were offering their services.

Sea Alarm’s involvement in the Prestige spill in Spain

Sea Alarm was invited by local parties in Galicia, Spain, and assisted between 23 November and 14 December 2002 in the organisation and optimisation of the response activities concerning oiled wildlife. Download the report (PDF, 159 kb).

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