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Baltic Birds Tragedy

Estonian oil slick threatens 5,000 seabirds

Environmentalists in the Baltic states say that an oil slick now coming ashore along the coast of northwest Estonia could kill as many as 5,000 birds, including swans and scarce sea ducks. The spill of about 20 tonnes [the source is under investigation] was first reported on the Estonian coast last Saturday, but was first thought to have a small likely impact. However, reports from bird watchers have confirmed that as many as 5,000 birds could die. Estonian Fund For Nature spokeswoman Kristel Toom said: "The oil has coated the feathers of many birds including swans and the rare long-tailed duck, which summers in Sweden and Norway and winters in Estonian waters,".

Jari Luukkonen, Conservation Co-ordinator for the World Wildlife Fund, Finland also commented; "The impact on the long-tailed duck will be felt in the region,"

Generally, conservationists fear for the long-term effect on the population of the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalisthat breeds in much of Iceland, Norway and the mountainous parts of Sweden. Birds winter at sea off Scotland, Holland and the Baltic countries. BirdGuides has estimated that about 8,000 to 18,000 pairs breed in Europe. A farmer who lives on an island off the coast of northwest Estonia told Reuters on Wednesday that there was a scant supply of resources on her island to deal with the problem. "On Osmusaare island … we have about 1,000 birds that are coated in oil," said Katrin Koppel, who is trying to rescue the birds. She added that many of the birds would die before help arrives to treat them.

Oiled birds have already been seen off the southwest coast of Finland and weather conditions are not helping matters. The Estonian weather forecasting service predicts that temperatures will fall to between -15 and -20 degrees Celsius by this weekend.

4th July 2014