Oil spill tragedy continues
Cambridge, UK, 18 March 2003 ? A total of nearly 44,000 oiled birds of 100 species have been picked- up from Europe`s North Atlantic coasts and beaches in Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands since the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker in November 2002 and the Tricolor cargo carrier in December 2002, according to BirdLife International Partners in these countries.
However, the number of oiled birds recovered after a spill is only the tip of the iceberg. The total number of birds oiled needs to be estimated because a proportion of the corpses does not come ashore. The total number of birds affected therefore needs to be estimated based on the number of oiled birds recovered on shore. By early March 2003, three months after the Prestige spill, 23,000 oiled birds had been recovered from the coasts of Spain, Portugal and France. Based on this figure the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/BirdLife) estimates that the total number of birds affected by the spill was 100,000-200,000.
The Tricolor spill resulted in nearly 21,000 birds being recovered in northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands by the end of February 2003. Based on this, BirdLife Belgium estimates that anywhere between 41,000?100,000 birds were oiled.
This means that during the three months between November 2002 and March 2003, the Prestige and Tricolor spills oiled an estimated 140,000-300,000 seabirds on Europe`s North Atlantic coast.
During the winter migration of seabirds, the Bay of Biscay, the North Sea and the Iberian Atlantic coast support important populations of seabird species that breed in western Europe. The worst affected species have been the Common Guillemot followed by the Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet and Common Scoter.
The majority of wintering birds affected by the Prestige spill are from breeding colonies on the south-east coast of Ireland and the west and north coasts of Wales and Scotland. SEO/BirdLife fears that the adverse impact may be irreversible on the very small but important breeding colonies of the Common Guillemot, which are the southern-most for this species in Europe (Sept Isles in France, the Islets of Cabo Vil?n and Sisargas in Spain and the Berlengas Isles in Portugal).
BirdLife International Partners in Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands say this data highlights the need for more effective legislation in the field of maritime transport, and its rigorous application at both the regional and global levels. The shipping of hazardous substances by vessels that are inadequate for the purpose, often under flags of convenience, also has to be stopped.
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Created: 24th Mar 2003
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