Due to the heavy seas caused by Cyclone Hamish off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Pacific Adventurer lost thirty-one containers holding ammonium nitrate on 10th March, puncturing two fuel tanks in the process. The subsequent oil spill, estimated to be up 42 tonnes, contaminated pristine beaches in a large area of south-east Queensland.
Fortunately, the spill seems to have had a minimal effect on birdlife.
While more than 100 birds were affected, this is only a small fraction of the more than the 20,000 vulnerable birds that were seen in the area. The majority of the affected animals only had minor oiling on their legs and feet, and those that were heavily oiled were taken into care.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed to us that it cared for 11 pelicans and one crested tern at their rehabilitation facility at Lytton. One pelican was also treated at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and one sea snake is being held at Sea World. Turtle nests were also monitored on the Sunshine Coast in order to catch hatchlings and release them onto clean beaches. The EPA will continue to monitor and search for oil-affected wildlife until the clean-up is complete.
The Pacific Adventurer spill received global attention and reports were broadcast all over Europe. The spill comes as a reminder to coastal countries that an event like this can happen anywhere, at any time. It clearly demonstrates that having an oiled wildlife plan in place provides invaluable guidance for a well-organised response to affected wildlife.
Photos courtesy of Qld Department of Environmental and Resource Management