Developing oiled wildlife preparedness in the Netherlands

Field exercise in the Netherlands

As of October 2017, the leadership of a five-year (2017-2022) oiled wildlife programme has been contracted to Sea Alarm.    

The programme, contracted by Rijkswaterstaat, the national authority that is responsible for oil spill response and preparedness, aims to further develop and enhance national preparedness for dealing with oiled seabird incidents in the Netherlands.

Designed following the principles of the recently published IPIECA Good Practice guideline on oiled wildlife response preparedness (which can be downloaded here), the programme uses the recently produced EUROWA materials (found here) as its basis.

The ambitious objectives of the programme include development and establishment of an organisation that will take responsibility for the coordination of an array of preparedness activities to be carried out by a large number of organisations. These include national agencies, coastal municipalities, rescue forces, nature and animal welfare organisations, and wildlife responders.

Sea Alarm will initiate the activities, working and interacting with these agencies and organisations, while assisting in the development of the new organisation, its governance structure and coordinating role, in dialogue with all the organisations that would benefit from it. Planned preparedness activities include training and exercises that will be defined for all functional roles: from volunteers to experts on the work floor, and from facility managers to incident managers.

In the Netherlands, the potential pollution risks to seabird populations are of deep concern. For example, incidents could involve many tens of thousands of wintering seabirds in the Southern Bight of the North Sea from October to March. Moreover, an oil spill in or near the Dutch Wadden Sea (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) could potentially impact tens of thousands of vulnerable sea and coastal birds at any time of the year.

The effective coordination of a wildlife response in such a geographically complex area needs thorough consideration, regional planning, and the availability of trained personnel in multiple organisations from which a useful contribution can be expected.

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