Because of PRBO's expertise in oil spill response, we offered assistance and were immediately asked to participate. Christine Abraham and I joined a British biologist and a team from the University of La Coruña (Spain) in species identification, documentation, and dissections of dead oiled birds; without such efforts, effects of spills on seabird populations are unknown. In many cases, documentation is also crucial to holding the responsible parties legally accountable and to ultimately make it in their interest to practice safer shipping methods.
|PRBO biologist Christine Abraham examines an oiled Gannet in La Coruña, Spain.|
To date, over 13,000 dead birds have been collected, and the true mortality likely is closer to 130,000 birds. Primary bird species affected include Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin, Shag, Northern Gannet, Common Murre, and Yellow-legged Gull. While long-term effects are unknown, the consequences may be severe, especially for species (e.g., the puffin) where mostly adults, already of breeding age, were affected.
The lack of coordinated response by the Spanish government highlights the dire need for established oil spill contingency plans-state, national, and continent-wide in scale-to be developed before such events occur. This event will hopefully serve as a wake-up call for the world to take further preventative actions against the disastrous effects of oil spills.