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Thousands of birds die in Black Sea oil spill

Storms wreak havoc

Thousands of birds and fish have been killed as oil spills from a stricken tanker in the northern Black Sea. At least 30,000 birds have died, and thousands more are covered in oil and face death in the coming days. The main species reported to be affected are Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Common Coot Fulica atra, Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus and Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. So far, 50km of Russian coastline is affected by the oil spills.

Dr Clairie Papazoglou, Head of BirdLife’s European Division comments: “BirdLife International is very concerned as this incident is an ecological disaster in an important area for wildlife.”

Two Important Bird Areas (IBAs), nearby, the Kiziltash Bay and the Tamanski and Dinskiy Bays, are under threat. Both are designated primarily for migrating and wintering birds. Up to 50,000 migratory waterfowl and other birds are known to use the sites during migration. Among these are Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. On Saturday night November 10th, a heavy storm brought severe damage to vessels stuck in the Kerch Strait between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. One vessel broke in two, leaking at least 2,000 tonnes of oil in the Black Sea. At least three more vessels that sank carried potentially hazardous sulphur. Twelve ships in total were reported to have been affected by the storms, killing at least six sailors.

Due to the weather circumstances which are still difficult at the moment, information about the current situation in the area is sparse. BirdLife’s network representatives are therefore relying on local sources to receive updates.

Weather services have announced more storms for tonight which make it impossible to undertake large-scale rescue operations at sea or to start cleaning oil-covered birds.

4th July 2014