Leading US wildlife response groups have been mobilised to the Gulf of Mexico to help local responders deal with oiled wildlife following the oil spill from the Deepwater horizon drilling rig, which sank following an explosion and fire on 20 April.
Efforts are continuing to try to stop the subsea leak of oil from the damaged rig, which is flowing at a rate of 5000 barrels a day, and an extensive spill response operation is underway, involving more than 2500 people and a fleet of vessels, aircraft, dispersants and containment booms. At the time of the incident, the rig was drilling an exploration well 130 miles south east of New Orleans. 11 people are missing, feared dead, following the incident and 17 people were injured. Further information on the incident response can be found at the Deepwater Horizon Response and Restoration Website.
This is a critical nesting time for wildlife as well as peak migration season in the Gulf area. In particular the Mississippi Delta is an area that is bound to be affected by oil and is home to large numbers of birds. The oil is also threatening marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and manatees, as well as sea turtles.
So far only one oiled bird has been found, which was recovered at sea and taken to a rehabilitation centre in Fort Jackson, Louisiana for treatment. However as the incident evolves it is expected that the oil, which is moving eastwards and closer to shore, will affect wildlife in the states of Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. Stormy weather conditions are currently hampering operations to search and collect oiled wildlife, so for now efforts are being concentrated on helping local responders to prepare for the arrival of oiled birds, sea turtles and marine mammals by setting up three temporary rehabilitation centres in different states.
Sea Alarm has been following developments from day one of the incident and has offered its assistance in sourcing and mobilising responders from outside the US on request. This is not necessary at this stage but down the line it is not excluded that additional expertise may be needed, especially if the response is going to take months rather than weeks.