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January 27, 2004

Norway oil spill threatens rare birds

International team rushes to Bergen area in effort to save them

Bergen, Norway

A tragic freighter accident 200 miles west of Oslo that killed 18 crew members, also spilled 445 tons of fuel oil into a Norwegian fjord, threatening an estimated 10,000 seabirds in a nearby reserve.

The International Bird Rescue Research Team (IBRRC www.ibrrc.org) was called to send a team of experts to the area to assist local wildlife groups in the possible rescue of thousands of oiled birds. IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW www.ifaw.org) partner to provide oiled wildlife response, internationally. The 10-person team, headed by Jay Holcomb, director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center includes IBRRC staff and specially trained oil spill veterans from around the world.

Links to media stories

· Reuters story
· Info on Rocknes capsizing

This is the first time oiled wildlife victims off Norway’s coast are being rescued for possible rehabilitation. Normal procedure up to this point has been to shoot oiled wildlife, rationalizing that as the most humane way to end their suffering.

““Many countries in the world are inexperienced and unprepared for oiled wildlife response, or share a general belief that oiled birds cannot be saved. However, it’s been proven that birds captured shortly after becoming oiled can be rehabilitated, go on to breed, and live a normal life span,” said Jay Holcomb. “Since the possibility that already threatened species may be oiled from this disaster, it is important that they be rescued by experienced professionals, utilizing a well thought out plan that keeps human health and safety a priority.”

Norway’s coastline is a complex network of coves and inlets with slippery, rocky shorelines, making rescue operations extremely challenging.

A rehabilitation center has been setup on the Island of Askoy and an appeal through the Norwegian media has led to volunteers offering the use of their boats to search for oiled birds.

An estimated one thousand birds have been oiled with eider ducks and herring gulls the most impacted. A nature reserve further north contains species of concern, including velvet scoters, black scoters and long-tailed ducks.


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Media contact:

Karen Benzel, International Bird Rescue Research Center, karen@ibrrc.org

Office: (831) 622-7588


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