Thursday, May 13, 2010

ENV: Gulf of Mexico Impacts on Birds

Information on Bird Impacts from the
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

What is the Likely Impact on Birds?

The concern for birds are three-fold.

  • Brown PelicanThe first is the immediate threat to individual birds from oil contamination. The first oiled birds are now being collected and sent to rehabilitators in the region. Many birds could be killed but never collected, particularly 'plunge-diving' birds such as pelicans, gannets and terns.
  • The second is from reduced food availability due to contamination of seafood stocks. Many of these are the same stocks that are the foundation of much of the regional coastal economy.
  • The third concern is from oil impacts to bird habitat. There are a number of Globally Important Bird Areas directly in the path of the advancing spill that are under immediate threat.The long-term effects on birds will be decreased breeding success as nests fail due to contamination of eggs that come into contact with oil and due to birds being forced from contaminated areas to marginal breeding sites or sites that are already at maximum capacity.

What are the Latest Developments

IBA MapABC has produced a map showling the location of Globally Important Bird Areas in relation to the advancing oil spill. Last updated May 3, 2010.

ABC Warns that Oiled Birds Found Onshore May Be a Fraction of the Total Toll on Birds From Gulf Spill

ABC Releases List of Critical Sites Most at Risk from Gulf Oil Spill, Demands Re-Assessment of Ecological Impacts of U.S. Energy Policy.

What is ABC doing?

An information hub: ABC is currently playing an important role in educating the media and the public on the possible impacts to hundreds of species of birds and their habitats in the Gulf Coast region as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. We are fortunate to have on staff many leading authorities in a diverse range of specialties related to the avian impacts of the spill, including toxicologists, seabird experts, avian habitat management specialists, and conservation policy professionals.

Response task force: ABC is a member of a small task force in Washington, D.C. that is comprised of a select number of national conservation organizations and representatives of the Department of Defense, Department of Interior, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This taskforce gives and receives real-time information on the coordinated response activities that are occurring on the ground in the Gulf States, and helps steer available resources to areas the data show to be of high value, such as those where threatened or endangered species are known to be present, or where a high number of breeding/staging birds occur at different times of the year.

Long-term policy assessment: ABC plays a key role in ensuring that government policies, laws, and regulations are structured and enforced to best protect birds and their habitats. Over coming months, ABC will be carefully evaluating the causes behind the spill and its effects to see how policies may best be put in place to ensure the fullest remediation of the spill’s impacts, and to prevent other disasters occurring in the future. ABC will also be monitoring the fallout of the spill on policies relating to other forms of energy generation to ensure that there is no rush to pass energy policies for coal, wind, hydro, or solar in place of oil that negatively impact birds. ABC advocates for a balanced, rational U.S. energy plan that takes into account all affects on birds and their habitats, and works to inform regulators and lawmakers of avian issues resulting from energy policy.

What Can I do?

ABC is fortunate to have many members and followers, such as you, who have inquired about ways in which they can help. For those who wish to volunteer as part of the on-site efforts, we have provided a list of contact numbers as follows:

  • American OystercatchersTo report oil on land, or for general community and volunteer information, please phone the BP response hotline on 866 448-5816.
  • To report oiled or injured wildlife, please phone 866 557-1401.
  • Volunteer opportunities exist in the Gulf Coast states and are being coordinated as follows: Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama
  • Fishermen wishing to offer assistance in cleaning up the oil spill should phone the Vessel of Opportunities Program at 281 366-5511. Shrimp boats, oyster boats, and other vessels are being hired to deploy booms.

ALSO: Audubon Magazine blog on the spill:

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