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Preparedness meetings and exercises in 2012

A major part of Sea Alarm’s work is assisting coastal governments, NGOs and other agencies in preparedness for an oiled wildlife response. Regular meetings, trainings and exercises of response plans ensure on-going readiness to respond to wildlife threatened by oil spills.

EU oiled wildlife responder meetings in 2012

Collaboration among four key European oiled wildlife response groups RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend, ProBird and Sea Alarm-continued in 2012 with a series of meetings in Germany, Belgium and the UK.

The organisations, which have responded co-operatively to oiled wildlife incidents in Europe, met to discuss methods of strengthening their integrated response capability and sharing this knowledge with other European stakeholders. Sea Alarm has assisted RSPCA, Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend and ProBird in developing a collaborative protocol for dealing with oiled birds in an incident, which is now finalised. and will be published in 2013.

In addition, procedures are being developed for mobilisation and operations of an international European team that be prepared to assist NGOs and Governments in dealing with an oil spill incident.  In 2013 the group will provide international training courses for interested organizations and individuals to help them better understand the protocols and how they are used in the face of an actual oiled wildlife response.

                                         Equipment check and readiness exercise

Sea Alarm, along with OSRL (Oil Spill Response Limited), RSPCA, Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend and ProBird, held a one-day exercise to evaluate the state of the Hamburg based stockpile of equipment available for oiled wildlife response in Europe.

In order to keep the stockpile, donated to Sea Alarm by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), in readiness for response, the group checked and inventoried the equipment and supplies. The resulting information will be used to help determine a longer term management and maintenance plan for the equipment, in order to ensure it is always in readiness for an oiled wildlife response.

The equipment is stored in 23 aluminium boxes and includes a wide array of  instruments, consumables and systems that are critical for the set up of a wildlife rehabilitation facility. Sea Alarm’s goal is to ensure that this equipment is kept together, maintained well, and can be made available to governments and NGOs who need it in the response to an incident.

Sea Alarm assists with wildlife response exercise programme in the Netherlands

Rijkswaterstaat (NL) has contracted Sea Alarm to help implement the 2012–2016 exercise programme designed as part of the country’s 2009 Oiled Wildlife Response Plan (Samenwerkingsregeling Besmeurde Vogels). Sea Alarm is responsible for developing and organising notification and field mobilisation exercises,  table tops and one-to-one training exercises for key personnel.

The exercises are held with different frequencies (once every one, two or three years) in four different regions of the Netherlands. The first exercise was a combined table top and field exercise held in Zeeland province held in June 2012, and was attended by representatives from Rijkswaterstaat, Zeeland coastal municipalities and other regional stakeholders.

The field exercise was a search/collection and transport exercise and the table top simulated an oiled wildlife incident in the Westerscheldt, the busy shipping lane connecting the Harbour of Antwerp and the North Sea. Both clearly illustrated the need for pre-defined objective and strategies and demonstrated the advantage of a response plans that is agreed between all stakeholders.

In December another information day and table top exercise was held with the regional stakeholders in the province of North Holland. That table top simulated an incident on the North Sea affecting most of the Dutch sandy beach coasts, and highlighted the important role of local municipalities in the coordination of field activities, public safety and logistics.

            Baltic region oiled wildlife response preparedness meeting

A two-day workshop; organised by Sea Alarm, WWF Finland, WWF Poland and the Institute of Oceanography of the University of Gdansk, in partnership with HELCOM RESPONSE (the Helsinki Commission Response group), was attended by 32 participants representing all nine Baltic countries, some of whose attendance was sponsored by Sea Alarm and WWF Finland.

As part of the Oiled Wildlife Response and Preparedness Working Programme 2011-2014 approved by HELCOM RESPONSE, this workshop occurred immediately following HELCOM RESPONSE’s 15th meeting. The workshop revealed a wide array of objectives and response capabilities.

In Estonia, Finland and Sweden, NGOs and authorities are working together to improve oiled wildlife response preparedness. In Denmark and the state of Schleswig Holstein euthanasia is the principle response method and both places are prepared to implement it in the case of a spill. Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, the Russian Federation, and the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern have no wildlife response system in place.

Participants concluded that more international exchange between authorities and NGOs, as well has greater planning and preparedness in some countries would be of benefit to the Baltic region. A full report on the workshop, published by Sea Alarm and WWF can be downloaded here.

                    Sea Alarm at the BALEX Delta exercise in Finland

Two Sea Alarm staff attended the annual BALEX (Baltic Delta Exercise). Hugo Nijkamp was an invited oiled wildlife expert of the EU Civil Protection Team at the request of Finland, and Claude Velter as an experienced oiled wildlife responder.  The EU Civil Protection Team is a group of European experts, mobilised and coordinated by the Monitoring and Information Centre of the European Commission, which can be put together at the request of a country in the face of a natural disaster, such as fire, flood or earthquake or marine pollution incident.

This real time exercise is coordinated each year by a HELCOM Contracting Party to enhance the skills of personnel involved in offshore cleanup operations, communications and information distribution. The 2012 exercise reinforced the recent inclusion of shoreline cleanup and wildlife response in the Convention, providing preparedness exercises in these areas as an integral part of the HELCOM programme.

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