During 2017 considerable further progress has been made in the Beta-phase of the GOWRS (Global Oiled Wildlife Response System) project.
The GOWRS project partners have held two in person meetings and working groups within the project have made progress on the development of various deliveries.
An in-person meeting was held last September at the Mallydams Centre of the RSPCA, near Hastings in the UK. The remote location of this Centre, which also has in-house B&B facilities, allowed the project group to work intensively together. A great deal was accomplished during this meeting, including conducting an extended internal exercise to practice the decision making process of a mobilized assessment team for oiled wildlife response.
The various working groups discussed the content and outline of project deliveries that will, in future, support the cooperation of expert groups and their collective response efforts:
- Develop an overview of the various roles and responsibilities in an oiled wildlife response in relation to existing training programmes and modules that project members currently employ to train and exercise personnel for these roles. Finding similarities through this process will form the basis on which international harmonization could be created. This will help groups blend in with each other’s systems during a collective response effort.
- Continue discussions on methods of developing a governance system that would support the cooperation of a multitude of wildlife response organisations, both outside and inside a response effort.
- Create an overview of existing stockpiles of tier-3 equipment, make comparisons, and develop a vision on the use and contents of such stockpiles for global oiled wildlife response.
- Carry out internal and external exercises with project partners to test and improve the Standard Operating Procedure developed for collective mobilization of expert groups.
Another in-person meeting was held early December 2017, organized by the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Ostend, Belgium. This meeting focussed on furthering discussions on future governance of collective international efforts on oiled wildlife response preparedness. A main programme item was to sketch out the activities needed to continue collective efforts beyond the horizon of the current project (end of 2018). Tasks ahead, priorities, and potential funding sources were discussed. The meeting also offered another opportunity for the working groups to discuss the final contents of their deliveries, and plan the work of their groups in 2018.
A further in-person meeting is scheduled for 2018, which will be used to close the work of the project. Most of the efforts in 2018 will be directed towards discussions with a variety of end users on the future of the initiative and looking at potential follow-up projects.
In the meantime, the project partners look forward to any opportunities to work together with industry and government agencies to create and maximise opportunities for exercises. Exercises are badly needed to identify gaps in current emergency mobilisation procedures as well as in local preparedness systems. Both types of gaps would potentially reduce the effectiveness of what a mobilised team of international experts can do, particularly in more challenging scenarios.
Although exercise opportunities with the industry have been limited in 2017, the project team hopes to see more such events scheduled in 2018, before the GOWRS Project concludes. Meanwhile the group will continue its effort to promote exercises through education and outreach activities, including presenting papers at Interspill (March, 2018) and the International Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference (May, 2018) in London and Baltimore respectively.