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Gulf Oil Spill Update

I just wanted to post a quick update on the spill. Attached is a link to the current bird list, which is updated daily (Bird list).Things are going very well and the rehabilitation effort has been very successful.

There have been some interesting comments in the news lately about the validity of rehabilitation oiled birds.

This is a debate that always comes up, especially with a spill of this magnitude. The bottom line is that this is a man-made disaster and we are responsible for the clean up and the restoration of the damage we have done to the environment. No matter the cost.

The comment this time was made by Brian Sharp, an ornithologist who has a private consulting firm in Oregon, in an interview with NPR.  His infamous 1996 report “Post Release Survival of Oiled, Cleaned Seabirds in North America” Ibis. Vol. 138:222-228

Sharp says he believes many of the cleaned birds will simply not survive after being released back to the wild. That’s because in the wake of the Exxon Valdez accident, he looked at several species of seabirds affected by oil to see how long they lived after being washed and banded with ID tags.

Based on tags that were later found, Sharp says the majority of rehabilitated birds didn’t last long after being released — just days, or weeks.

“When they’re released, they’re still incapacitated,” he says. “They’re still sick.”

The birds hadn’t been just covered in oil — they’d ingested it as they tried to preen. Sharp says he does understand how agonizing it is to see the suffering of oiled birds, and he thinks that if people want to try to clean them, that’s their choice.

“Just so that they don’t deceive themselves and the public that they’re really having great, grand results and saving lots and lots, a high proportion of the birds,” Sharp says. “Because it’s just the opposite.”

IBRRC’s response:

“The study relies on anecdotal band returns (meaning there is no daily tracking method for individuals released and no control groups observed.) These surveys are misleading because they fail to consider some important variables: the protocols used to care for the birds in question, the experience of the organization caring for the oiled birds and basic things like how the bird’s health and water proofing were assessed prior to release.” – Jay Holcomb

We have come a long way since the Exxon Valdez accident. The reality is that every spill is different and they need to be treated as such. Every species effected in a spill has different requirements and because of this we deal with every species differently. For Brian Sharp to say that rehabilitation doesn’t work is both ignorant and irresponsible.

If you are interested in learning more check out Post release survival of oil affected sea birds on IBRRC’s blog!

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