Quantcast

Oiled Wildlife Death Toll Is ‘Tip of the Iceberg’

World Wildlife Fund Global

The number of oiled wildlife reported dead is a tiny fraction of the true figure killed by the Rena oil spill, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-New Zealand said Jan 13.

The conservation organisation said that the tragedy should act as a wake up call for government, yet its recent proposed legislation for New Zealand’s offshore environment does little to protect wildlife from future oil spills.

Maritime New Zealand reported Jan. 12 that 45 dead oiled birds have been collected by wildlife recovery teams since the beginning of the week when the stern section of the storm-battered Rena began to sink, releasing more oil and littering the ocean with debris and containers. The current total number of dead wildlife recorded stands at 2066.

“The true number of wildlife killed by the spill will be far greater than the numbers recovered—the corpses the teams are collecting are the tip of the iceberg, and of course the number of animals affected by the spill is greater still,” said WWF-New Zealand Marine Programme Manager Rebecca Bird. “Our main concern remains the long term impacts of the oil spill on the environment. This latest release of oil occurred during a significant storm, so oiled birds would have drowned more quickly and many will disappear from view. The vessel breaking up, discharging more oil and harming more wildlife clearly puts more pressure on an already damaged environment. However, if this had happened before the majority of the oil was removed, it would have been an even greater catastrophe,” she said.

WWF said wildlife recovery efforts it had observed first-hand, which were led by the National Oiled Wildlife Recovery Team coordinated by Maritime New Zealand are "world class," and praised the dedication and professionalism of the staff involved.

“The speed with which the wildlife response teams recovered oiled wildlife, and the high standard of expertise from those involved—from local volunteers to wildlife professionals—is world class,” said Ms. Bird. “The teams out in the field recovering wildlife affected by the spill and those at the recovery centre caring for and restoring the animals to health have worked tirelessly and with sound judgment—you couldn’t find a better operation anywhere in the world.”

The conservation organisation says the tragedy should be a wake up call for government, yet proposed legislation governing New Zealand’s offshore environment—the government’s Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill—will fail to protect wildlife from future spills. WWF-New Zealand Marine Advocate Bob Zuur said:

“At a time when we are counting the cost of the Rena oil spill, the government’s draft legislation for environmental controls in our offshore environment does little to prevent future spills killing more wildlife. It appears that its primary purpose is to smooth the way for the government's Petroleum Action Plan which aims to attract more oil and gas exploration in our oceans,” he said. “It will allow petroleum development in areas which are so significant for wildlife they should be never be exploited—the equivalent of allowing mining in national parks.”

Currently, the draft legislation does nothing to prevent risky activities such as offshore mining in sensitive areas of the ocean which are home to unique wildlife. WWF is calling for the government to set aside regions of outstanding biodiversity in marine reserves, or national parks of the sea, separate high risk activities from important vulnerable areas of ocean, and specify mandatory areas to be avoided by shipping such as currently exist around the Three Kings Islands, Poor Knights and in Taranaki.

“The Rena oil spill is a tragedy in itself for the wildlife harmed and killed, the damage to the environment, and the impact on the local community. The government should shelve plans to open up more of New Zealand’s oceans for deep sea oil and gas drilling, at least until it is willing to draft legislation that will protect the vulnerable ocean environment,” said Mr. Zuur.

WWF is calling on the government to protect areas important for wildlife, and strengthen the legislation, reducing the risk of spills happening. “Failure to do so would be a kick in the teeth to all those who are working to clean up their beaches and recover wildlife following the Rena spill,” said Mr. Zuur.

Submissions on the government’s Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill close Jan. 27.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pixabay

By Claire L. Jarvis

A ruckus over biofuels has been brewing in Iowa.

Read More Show Less
Serena and Venus Williams have been known to follow a vegan diet. Edwin Martinez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Whitney E. Akers

  • "The Game Changers" is a new documentary on Netflix that posits a vegan diet can improve athletic performance in professional athletes.

  • Limited studies available show that the type of diet — plant-based or omnivorous — doesn't give you an athletic advantage.

  • We talked to experts about what diet is the best for athletic performance.

Packed with record-setting athletes displaying cut physiques and explosive power, "The Game Changers," a new documentary on Netflix, has a clear message: Vegan is best.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An illegally trafficked tiger skull and pelt. Ryan Moehring / USFWS

By John R. Platt

When it comes to solving problems related to wildlife trade, there are an awful lot of "sticky widgets."

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be both good and bad.

On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Dan Nosowitz

It's no secret that the past few years have been disastrous for the American farming industry.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and coconut oil are fats that have risen in popularity alongside the ketogenic, or keto, diet.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Bijal Trivedi

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.

Read More Show Less
Rool Paap / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Read More Show Less