Action for Wildlife Threatened by Oil Spills
Unique co-operation between the oil industry and a wildlife charity
Birds are one of the most visible and distressing casualties of a major coastal oil spill, with the numbers affected sometimes running into thousands. Their rescue and rehabilitation is often poorly organised and usually relies on voluntary groups that lack the training and resources to carry out a fully effective operation over a sustained period. This is all set to change thanks to a long-term commitment entered into by the oil industry and an international charity. A joint programme, agreed between the Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) and East Asia Response Limited (EARL) Alliance and the Brussels-based Sea Alarm Foundation, will ensure that the skills and experience of the oil industry and relevant environmental groups are combined to safeguard marine birds, mammals and reptiles threatened by oil pollution.
Roelf de Boer, Chairman of the Sea Alarm Foundation commented, “This co-operation is an international breakthrough and demonstrates that industry and non-governmental organisations complement each other in the field of oiled wildlife response preparedness and management. We look forward to working with the highly experienced staff of the OSRL/EARL Alliance to increase the level of professionalism and co-ordination in this field around the world.”
Archie Smith, Chief Executive of the OSRL/EARL Alliance added, “We very much value the high level of expertise and commitment that Sea Alarm brings to this relationship. As a result we are now able to offer all our customers a more comprehensive package of response services, although the ultimate beneficiary of this co-operation will be marine and coastal wildlife.”
The joint programme developed between the OSRL/EARL Alliance and Sea Alarm includes:
- training and co-ordination of dedicated wildlife response teams, as well as responders in individual companies, countries and regions;
- establishment of a 24/7 emergency response centre;
- activities to increase the level of international preparedness to such incidents, including the incorporation of wildlife response plans into national oil spill contingency plans;
- development of an international database of wildlife response organisations, national authorities and other relevant country information.
The main aim of this joint programme is to ensure that the response to future oiled wildlife incidents is faster and more effective, with better documentation of results and lessons learned. The partners in this new co-operation invite relevant national and international authorities, Non Governmental Organisations and other relevant groups to lend their support by participating in this important initiative.
Oiled wildlife incident Estonia
Thursday February 2, 2006, Sea Alarm was notified about an oiled wildlife incident that was currently happening in Estonia. Thousands of birds were oiled following an illegal discharge of oil in the Gulf of Finland. Local responders had called for assistance, and the message reached Sea Alarm by e-mail via Sweden and the UK.
Sea Alarm immediately liaised with the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Emergency Relief Team (IFAW ER, US) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals (RSPCA, UK) and the three organisation set up a joint international effort to provide support to the Estonian response, which was lead by the Ministry of Environment and supported by the Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF).
Within 24 hours, Sea Alarm (Hugo Nijkamp) and IFAW (Ian Robinson) were on site, advising and assisting the authorities and local responders, while experts from Europe and other parts in the world were mobilised. Under the Sea Alarm umbrella, Bird Protection Flandres (B), Project Blue Sea (D) and Royal Nioz (NL) sent experts to Estonia. IFAW mobilised its Emergency Response Team and RSPCA sent 3 experts.
The first experts who arrived were sent to the remote bird holding centres to assist with animal care. Meanwhile, a temporary wildlife hospital was built in Keila, using IFAW’s Southampton based equipment which was put on transport by Oil Spill Response Ltd. As soon as this hospital was operational (February 8), all birds were transported there to bring them under one roof. In the Keila Wildlife Hospital, foreign experts are working together with Estonian responders to rehabilitate as many animals as possible.
The start of the Keila Wildlife Hospital marked the transition from emergency management to project management. From the ca 500 birds that had been captured, ca 150 made it to the wildlife hospital, of which ca 100 were considered fit enough to be treated (Feb 9). Also the birds that had been collected dead on beaches were brought to the wildlife hospital for necropsy (set up by Royal Nioz), in order to collect data for a wildlife impact analysis.
As part of the project management, a training programme has been designed to train a core group of managers, rangers, volunteers and scientists who would form a national crisis team for a future incident. The project also includes a strategy for downscaling the response and demobilising foreign experts.
Together with the authorities, a response plan is now being developed to prepare for a potential new oiled wildlife incident in spring 2006, because much of the spilled oil is still sitting under the ice and needs to be cleared up.
Immediately after the incident, the authorities were able to recover 8 t of oil from the coast, before ice started growing over it (due to night temperatures are as low as 15 to 20 degrees below zero). How much oil is still left under the ice no-one knows. After the ice will melt in Spring, aerial surveys should be able to detect the oil. There is a window of opportunity to clean the coast from oil, before sunshine heats up the oil on the sea bottom and it starts to mobilise again, threatening birds.
The approach jointly taken by Sea Alarm, IFAW and RSPCA in this response can be seen as a milestone in the history of European wildlife response, marking the start of a new era of effective, cost efficient cooperation between experienced wildlife responders. This spill also demonstrated the need of local preparedness and the importance of existing pre-spill arrangements between the key players from the authorities and NGO’s.
A dedicated website is now being built by the Estonian authorities. As soon as it is ready, you will find the link here.
Maritime Industry Bikers raise funds for Sea Alarm
Tour pour la Mer is an independent bike ride set up to raise money for charitable organisations within the maritime industry, and raise awareness of maritime issues. The ride, which is supported by P&O, Vships, MTI, Intertanko, Lloyd’s List, Tradewinds and PanScandinavian, will be held 12-14 May 2006 and aims to raise GBP 250.000 for two selected charities. Sea Alarm and the Mission to Seafarers (www.missiontoseafarers.org) are organisations that will benefit from this very first edition of the promising initiative. If you are a supporter of Sea Alarm’s activities and seek for a sportive way of sponsoring us, please look at www.tourpourlamer.org how you can get involved as a sponsored rider or as a sponsoring organisation! Sea Alarm will use the raised sum for increasing the ability of wildlife responders to respond to oiled wildlife incidents, e.g. by organising regional training programmes.
Oiled wildlife response plan Belgium signed
During a ceremony in Ostend on July 14, 2005, a new Oiled Wildlife Response Plan has been signed in Belgium, by two responsible Federal Ministers and the Governor of West Flandres, and is therefore now operational. The plan is a product of a project group that was formed to evaluate the wildlife response in the aftermath of the Tricolor incident (2003) in which over 5000 live seabirds washed upon the Belgian beaches and were treated in Belgium, Netherlands and the UK. The project group, lead by the Belgian authorities and including wildlife responders, scientists and NGO’s, asked Sea Alarm to assist with developing an effective response plan. The new and agreed Plan consists of three sections (Strategy/Policy, Operations, Data) and describes the envisaged roles for all involved stakeholders. The Plan provides a tiered approach which enables a tailor made response with respect to the size of an incident. The operational section of the plan describes the Tier-3 (crisis) activities. In case of the Tier-3 mobilisation, the Governor of West Flanders Province will lead the response as chairman of the Policy Group. His involvement guarantees a smooth integration of the oiled wildlife response activity into Belgium’s existing oil spill contingency planning because he also chairs the policy groups of the Provincial Environmental Contingency Plan (oil clean-up) and the North Sea Contingency Plan (maritime accidents). The new Plan is the first national plan which has been developed according to the guidelines provided by the IPIECA Guide to Oiled Wildlife Response Planning.
Wildlife response in new IOPC Funds Claims Manual
In October 2004, the Assembly of the 1992 Fund Convention adopted the text of a new Claims Manual, which now also includes a short section on the treatment of claims for the cleaning and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife. This section of the Manual provides guidance for those who have been involved in the response to an oiled wildlife incident caused by a tanker spill and would like to be reimbursed for the costs they incurred during the cleanup. This new Manual was published May 2005 and is downloadable from www.iopcfund.org.