Another oiled wildlife incident stretches capacity in Germany
Sunday 3 February 2008, the first oiled birds were reported from the island of Föhr, Germany. In the days to follow, several hundreds of oiled birds, mainly common scoters, were picked up from beaches along the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost German Federal State. To date the cause of the oil spill, which was identified as heavy fuel oil, remains uncertain. The Havariekommando, the central German authority responsible for oil combat at sea worked together with the Schleswig-Holstein authorities to deal with the spill. An integrated oiled wildlife response was allowed to take place, including attempts to capture and rehabilitate live animals. The organisation of this oiled wildlife response was left to the Working Group on Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation, which is a Sea Alarm initiated umbrella under which all the German wildlife responders and coastal response centres are cooperating.
This incident was not easy for the Working Group to manage. An internal protocol on how to get organised and set up internal communication in case of an incident did not yet exist. The main centre on Föhr, the Tierhuus, with only limited capacity to stabilise birds was immediately under pressure with several tens of birds being admitted every day. Of the two permanent centres in Schleswig Holstein, the Westküstenpark had a limited capacity of 50 birds due to regulations connected to bird flu. The other centre, Weidefeld in Kappeln (Baltic coast) had a capacity of 120 birds but was not well prepared. The Workgroup decided to attempt rehabilitation of 65 birds in Kappeln and to transport any surplus of animals to the Netherlands, for which the authorities had provided a permit. In the course of several days and three transports, over 250 birds were brought to Fûgelpits in the North of the Netherlands. The centre in Kappeln had to be modified quickly after the birds had arrived, a process for which Sea Alarm organised assistance from Oostende (Belgium). Although time became the biggest enemy in this centre, threatening the condition of the birds, all technical problems could be dealt with and by 18 February. A total number of 45 birds were washed and put on pools, the majority expected to be released soon. At the Fûgelpits (NL), washing and rehabilitation also is proceeding well.
The incident has challenged the Working Group in many ways. Despite good intentions, mistakes were made by many and the internal communication at some crucial points during the response failed. Sea Alarm has already been requested to help with an evaluation process in order learn lessons and see how cooperation between the groups can be reinforced. A main conclusion from this incident is that it came too early: an agreed response plan was not in place and the Work Group was still exploring how to get organised and speak with one voice. The way forward in Germany is the development of regional wildlife response plans in each of the Federal States, in which the role and activities of the Working Group and communication processes are well described. In several Federal States, i.e. Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, the authorities have already started working on such plans. No doubt that the learnt lessons from this latest incident should and will provide a new impetus to these developments.
Reducing Impact of Oil Spills (RIOS)
An EU scientific project titled Reducing impact of Oil Spills (RIOS) has been granted by the European Commission since April 2007. The project, in which Sea Alarm, Nordeconsult (Sweden, www.nordeconsult.com) and Zoomarine (Portugal, www.zoomarine.pt) are involved as partners, will focus on minimising the negative impacts of oil spills on the wildlife.
The main objective of RIOS is to develop an action plan for future research in the area of oiled wildlife rehabilitation and to stimulate the contacts and future co-operation between scientists and other stakeholders in this area. As part of the project, a workshop will be organised in Algarve, (Portugal) aiming to bring together scientists to discuss research concerning oil spills and their effects on wildlife.
The Fourth Sea Alarm Conference, Ostend (Belgium), 1-3 October
This next edition of the Conference aims to present state of the art tools for oiled wildlife preparedness and response in Europe. Decision support systems, planning, training, stocks of equipment, response strategies and more will be presented and discussed. The set up of the conference will provide multiple opportunities for participants from governmental agencies, industry and NGO’s to exchange and discuss expertise, experience and approaches. The fourth edition will aim to bring together 150 participants mainly from Europe but also from other parts of the world.
The Conference will be held at the Thermae Palace Hotel in Ostend, Belgium, the coastal city where in 2003 thousands of birds were treated in the aftermath of the Tricolor incident. At present a provisional programme agenda is being drafted. Block these dates in your agenda!
Successful meeting in Southampton on developing training opportunities for oiled wildlife responders
A Sea Alarm organised meeting on the design and development of training opportunities for oiled wildlife responders took place at the premises of Oil Spill Response East Asia Response Ltd in Southampton (UK) on 16-18 April 2007. The meeting, which was attended by representatives of Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (RSPCA), Tristate Bird Rescue Research Center, International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF), OSRL/Earl, Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend and Sea Alarm, assessed existing training programmes and their applicability in an international capacity building programme.
EU Workshop on Wildlife Impact Assessment
In the framework of an EU project lead by The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), a workshop on Seabird Population Impact Assessment took place on 7-9 September 2006 in La Coruña. The workshop aimed to define best practices with regards to the collection of dead oiled seabirds in the aftermath of an oil spill incident and the subsequent necropsy and data analysis. Also it was discussed which data on (seasonal) seabird distribution would be needed by oil spill managers in the early stages of an incident, to be used in the decision making process on environmental protection. The main objective of the EU project, in which also University of A Coruña and Sea Alarm are involved as partners, is to develop a Handbook on Seabird Population Impact Assessment. In total, 38 participants attended the workshop, including scientists, regulators and NGOs amongst which 20 formally appointed delegates from 11 European countries. The first day of the workshop was dedicated to provide an overview of the subject.
Lectures were given on various related subjects, including methodologies to trace the origin of oiled seabirds (e.g. by biometry or genetic fingerprinting); case studies of past spills (Prestige, Tricolor, Erika, Estonia spills); the cooperation between NGO’s and governments (Canada, UK); international compensation regimes, issues connected to certain regions (Baltic), and structures for international cooperation and exchange. The second day, the contents of the envisaged Handbook was discussed in more detail in subgroups. The proceedings of the workshop are in preparation. The Handbook, to which all participants have been invited to contribute, will be developed during the first half of 2007 and published on the internet.
EU Workshop on Cleaning and Rehabilitation of Oiled Wildlife
In the framework of an EU project lead by Zoomarine, a Workshop on Best Practices for Oiled Wildlife Cleaning and Rehabilitation took place on 21-23 October 2006 in Albufeira. This workshop aimed at discussing backgrounds and principles of the cleaning and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife in the aftermath of an oil spill incident and tried to identify good practices that could be made available to wildlife responders throughout Europe. The workshop programme included a series of lectures, subgroup discussions and a table top exercise. The lectures were dealing with subjects such as fate and effect of oil, effects of oil on wildlife, setting up a temporary wildlife hospital, health and safety, animal welfare principles, and international cooperation. The participants discussed how to define animal welfare principles and how to translate these principles into the practice of oiled wildlife rehabilitation.
The decision making of an ordinary oiled wildlife rehab centre in the early days of an oil spill incident was simulated during a table top exercise that was specially developed for the workshop. In total, 41 participants attended the workshop including regulators, scientists and rehabilitators, amongst which 29 formally appointed delegates from 18 European countries. The project, in which also IFAW, ICRAM and Sea Alarm are involved as partners, aims to deliver a Handbook in which the best practices are described. The Handbook will be written during the first months of 2007 and will be published on www.oiledwildlife.eu
Workshop on European Oiled Wildlife Response Planning
The European Oiled Wildlife Response Planning workshop, led by Sea Alarm, took place on 12-15 June 2006, at CEDRE, Brest (France). The project, in which also CEDRE (F), IFAW (UK), SYKE (Fin), ICRAM (I), OSRL (UK) and ITOPF (UK) are involved as partners, brought the unique opportunity of bringing authorities from European Coastal States together to discuss the lessons learnt from past oiled wildlife incidents and to explore national and international solutions for effective preparedness to future incidents in Europe. In total, 18 countries attended the workshop, including authorities responsible for oil spill management, authorities responsible for animal welfare issues and recognised NGO’s.
Presentations and discussions at the workshop covered a broad overview of the key issues of oiled wildlife response preparedness. One of the main conclusions of the workshop was that the level of preparedness in Europe can be improved, and a number of activities, such as making effective pre-spill arrangements at national levels, have been identified and listed as recommendations. The organisers will present the workshop outcomes to the EU Management Committee on Marine Pollution and will bring them under the attention of regional cooperation platforms such as Helcom, Bonn Agreement and Barcelona Convention.
The Follow up work that has been agreed at the workshop includes the development of an internet portal and a dedicated web-site (www.oiledwildlife.eu) which will be hosted by Sea Alarm. This website will become the main European portal with access to key information sources.
Training of European oiled wildlife responders
Sixteen experienced oiled wildlife responders from different European countries attended a Sea Alarm training event in Brussels on 13 and 14 November 2006. The meeting was organised to start training a group of European experts according to internationally agreed standards of good practice with regards to oiled wildlife incident response. Together with other organisations that attended the meeting, including Oil Spill Response Ltd, the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty, the invited experts discussed best practices and their needs for specific training modules.
The training needs that were identified in Brussels will be subject of a series of follow-up meetings that will be organised by Sea Alarm and involve the internationally leading wildlife response organisations who together aim to design an international training programme based on already existing modules.
Sea Alarm, in cooperation with Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) has accredited the European experts to be on call for assistance in oiled wildlife emergencies where local groups are facing limited capacities and in which an oil company offers to facilitate the mobilisation of an international assistance. The training of the experts is co-financed by the oil industry through the Agreement between Sea Alarm and OSRL. Sea Alarm is developing other financial resources in order to provide for a more international training programme that can be made available to authorities and interested wildlife response groups.
MS Server spill in Norway
On 12 January 2007, the Greek tanker MS Server in heavy storms hit the island of Fedje, N-NW of Bergen, Norway, and broke into two. The tanker lost 300-600 t (max) heavy fuel oil and some diesel. The incident took place close to wintering areas of seabirds. At present, WWF-Norway is working with the authorities to mobilize their voluntary oil combating brigades in order to assist with the clean-up operations. The Norwegian Coastal Administration and wildlife responders (SWAN) have been discussed the oiled wildlife response.
SWAN, a local organization in charged of the animal care and rehabilitation has set up a bird holding facility on the island of Fedje, on of the most affected areas, where oiled birds from the island are stabilised. Another facility has been built near Bergen, where all birds will be transported to for further treatment, until they are ready to be released. Search and collection is carried out by another contractor (NNI). So far, 21 are in care including mainly seaducks, but also gulls, shags, cormorants and black guillemots.