Oil, oil, everywhere?
Posted by Nicholas Seton on 14/10/11 14:54 PM
As New Zealand counts the costs in hundreds of oil-stricken birds, it’s time to stop and think about the real risks of the world’s addiction to oil - and why the sustainable, green alternatives look more attractive all the time…
Reports have come in of hundreds of dead, oiled birds being found since New Zealand’s ”worst environmental maritime disaster”’ after the crash of the container ship Rena into a reef in the Bay of Plenty
This comes at a time when the UK government has announced full support for the expansion of high-risk oil developments in its own wildlife-abundant waters, off the Shetland Islands.
It’s clear that oil and nature don’t mix, and that real energy solutions are being overlooked. The risks from fossil fuels are very real, and several recent disasters have highlighted the lack of damage limitation plans or protection for crucial habitats.
Last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill from BP’s deepwater Macondo well quickly became the worst single oil spill disaster in history. More recently, Shell’s aging Ganet Alpha rig sprung a leak in the North Sea -– a leak which they kept from the public for days.
This week, the Independent found that BP is prepared to rewrite history, moving into deeper waters of the North Sea while acknowledging the risk of a disaster twice the size of that seen in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil spills happen, but no one could afford a clean-up cost on that scale.
WWF-New Zealand’s marine advocate Bob Zuur has been working at Mount Maunganui beach in the Bay of Plenty as part of the National Oiled Wildlife Recovery (NOWC) team. He told us:
“We’ve been scaling the rocks looking for wildlife. We’ve rescued three little blue penguins, but collected many more dead birds. Penguins don’t normally come ashore during the day - the ones we’re finding are pretty ill.
“We saw a shag about 20 metres offshore, flapping in the water, trying to clean itself - it couldn’t fly, it couldn’t dive, it didn’t know what to do, and we couldn’t reach it. It was heartbreaking."
He says the majority of birds they’re finding dead are diving petrels - though he admits some of the dead birds are so covered in the tacky oil they are practically “unrecognisable”, and could only be identified by their wingspan.
We’re particularly concerned about the endangered New Zealand dotterel and fairy terns - these birds are already threatened and it’s possible that if the situation worsens, the local population could be severely depleted. The NOWC has pre-emptively caught some dotterels thought to be at risk.
Of course the effects go beyond individual species. The full extent of the environmental disaster may not be realised for some time, and is likely to worsen.
We’ll continue to support wildlife recovery and restoration efforts and to offer technical support and assistance in this emergency response phase.
But the medium to long-term solution should not be about rescue and recovery - it should be about prevention through the use of clean, alternative, sustainable fuel sources…
Donate to support WWF's efforts in New Zealand to assist in the recovery of oiled wildlife in the Bay of Plenty, and ongoing environmental restoration
Help decrease our oil-addiction - start by telling car companies to clean up their act
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