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More oil spill carnage?

4,000 oiled birds recovered from Belgian and Dutch coasts - BirdLife International calls for urgent EU action…

A total of 3,901 oiled birds have been recovered from the Belgian and Dutch coasts following the recent Tricolor oil spill with oil now being washed ashore on both coasts, BirdLife International said today. A total of 650 oiled birds, mostly Guillemots, have been recovered from the Dutch coast according to Vogelbescherming Nederlands (BirdLife in the Netherlands).A total of 3,251 oiled seabirds of at least 15 species have been recovered from the Belgian coast since 170 tonnes of fuel oil leaked from the Tricolor on 24th January. A total of 931 of the birds recovered were dead, mostly Guillemots and Razorbills according to BirdLife Belgium.BirdLife International has today written to the European Commission calling for it to urgently put forward legislation to enable member states to ratify the International Maritime Organisation`s (IMO) 2001 Bunker Spills Convention [The International Maritime Organisation`s 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (Bunker Spills Convention) covering spills of bunker (fuel) oil from non-tankers includes compensation for clean-up or the costs of damage resulting from a bunker spill (ie, strict liability). However, even if it was ratified, this convention would not ensure adequate compensation for oil spill damage to the natural environment because it is very hard to prove that actions taken would enhance natural recovery ? the criteria set out by the convention for compensation] which covers fuel oil spills from cargo vessels. BirdLife also asks for assurances that the forthcoming Environmental Liability Directive covers any gaps in the convention`s protection of the environment or where this or other relevant conventions are not yet ratified.Although agreed in 2001, ratification of the Bunker Spills Convention has been held up because all EU member states are required to ratify IMO conventions as a bloc, and the EU has not produced the legislation that allows bloc ratification yet. Since Belgium and the Netherlands have not ratified the Convention, they are not protected by it and therefore no strict liability system of compensation will be available for this spill.The Tricolor has been involved in three more accidents since it sank in December. Since then it has been a constant hazard to navigation. Owners of vessels such as the Tricolor which sink and pose an oil spill hazard should have to remove such wrecks more rapidly. If the Bunkers Convention were in place or the EU Environmental Liability Directive covered such situations, the owners of the Tricolor would be liable for the damage to the Belgian and Dutch coastal environments, said Clairie Papazoglou, Acting Head of the BirdLife European Community Office in Brussels.The environmental threat posed by the wreck of the Tricolor must be removed as soon as possible to prevent any further oil leakage. Gaps in the strict liability system protecting the environment in the EU have been highlighted by this latest spill. BirdLife wants to see the EU acting now to close these gaps through urgent ratification of international conventions and strengthening of the EU Environmental Liability Directive, said Dr Sharon Thompson of the RSPB. For further information please contact Michael Szabo at BirdLife International on (+44) 01223 277318 or (+44) 07779 018 332 (mobile) and Dr Sharon Thompson at RSPB on (+44) 01767 683355.

4th July 2014