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HELCOM Members Take Further Steps To Enhance Oiled Wildlife Response

HELCOM members take further steps to enhance oiled wildlife response

Baltic countries are continuing their commitment to improving oiled wildlife response through the HELCOM Expert Working Group on Oiled Wildlife Response (EWG-OWR),and most, recently via an  online seminar on the role of euthanasia within oiled wildlife response.

Meetings of the EWG-OWR, the latest of which was held online in February, are chaired by Hugo Nijkamp of Sea Alarm. The EWG-OWR is designed as a forum for the exchange of information on progress and best practices, and to facilitate the creation of joint standards and cross-border cooperation in oiled wildlife response. At the meeting, Contracting Parties discussed recent national developments and upcoming oiled wildlife response events, such as the 2021 BALEX Delta exercise to be held in Finland, where there will be an oiled wildlife response component.

Sea Alarm took the opportunity to give an update on the EUROWA-2 project and relevant activities for Baltic authorities, including planned authority workshops on integrated management for oiled wildlife response, guidelines for exercise development, and a new tabletop exercise package.

The topic of euthanasia in a marine wildlife emergency is an issue that the HELCOM EWG-OWR has had on its radar for some time since it is an important strategy that goes hand in hand with rehabilitation and is the primary strategy in some Baltic countries. At the request of the EWG-OWR, Sea Alarm organised and hosted an online webinar on the 20th April on euthanasia as an oiled wildlife response strategy.

The seminar presented information on state-of-the-art methods for performing euthanasia and mass euthanasia of oiled wildlife, explored planning and ethical issues, and provided recommendations and guidance on decision-making. The seminar was chaired by Vanessa Ryan of WWF Finland and featured four invited speakers.

Independent expert Ian Robinson began by presenting a veterinary and animal welfare perspective on euthanasia, outlining the different methods available for euthanasia of oiled animals, their applications and practical considerations. He was followed by Hugo Nijkamp who outlined the approach taken in the Netherlands, where scientific advice has been used to define the strategy and criteria for euthanasia; defining when and how should animals be euthanised.

Lars Bruun Hansen from the Danish Nature Agency then described how euthanasia is carried out as a pre-determined strategy; and what guidelines for authorised hunters are in place on implementing euthanasia. Finally, Liesbeth Feikema from the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University took the floor to discuss how stakeholders can construct ethics dialogues as part of emergency response planning, including a process that stakeholders can apply as a systematic framework for more objective argument-based, rather than opinion-based, decision making.

Thirty-nine people from HELCOM authorities, the HELCOM Secretariat, veterinary institutes and practices, observers of the EWG-OWG and a number of invited NGOs and their volunteers attended the seminar. This was the first time an event solely focused on euthanasia for oiled wildlife response has been organised under the framework of any European Regional Agreement; and was a very important opportunity to look at the euthanasia strategy academically from different angles – ethical, practical, scientific – to help authorities in their decision-making around using this strategy. A webinar of the seminar is available here.

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