New Data Shows Oil Spill's Impact on Water Birds

But Fish & Wildlife Service Numbers Don't Add Up

09-16-2010 // Miles Grant
Royal Tern

Throughout the oil spill crisis, National Wildlife Federation has been closely monitoring and evaluating wildlife impacts in the Gulf.

To better understand how oil from the disaster has impacted specific species, NWF sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)request in August to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In the wake of that FOIA request, the FWS today released a report of bird impacts categorized by species.

Although the FWS news release claims to reflect bird collection totals through September 14th, the data are clearly not up-to-date. The FWS report lists only 4,676 collected birds, while the September 14th Deepwater Horizon Response Consolidated Fish & Wildlife Report lists 7,996 collected birds.

"Despite their incompleteness, the new data are critically important because they show for the first time which species are being hit hardest--the ones that make their living diving into the water for food," said Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation.

"It's frustrating that this report provides details on only about 60 percent of the birds we know have been recovered in the disaster zone so far." Inkley said. "However, NWF's FOIA request has moved FWS in the direction of timely reporting of impacted birds in a far more complete manner than it had been before. These birds are public resources, and the public has a right to timely information about the impacts of the Gulf oil disaster."

Top bird species impacted:

  • Laughing Gull 
  • Brown Pelican 
  • Northern Gannet 
  • Royal Tern 
  • Black Skimmer

More Bird Impact Data by Species - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service >>

Additionally, the Associated Press has reported that researchers have found more evidence of a layer of oil on the Gulf floor. That's in the wake of another wave of oil coming ashore last Friday.

"Gulf Coast residents are discovering what Alaskans learned after the Exxon Valdez disaster--while official reports rush to call the disaster over, oil lingers long after the disaster disappears from front pages," said Dr. Inkley. "It's heartening that so far, the Gulf oil disaster's wildlife impacts haven't been worse, but the National Wildlife Federation will continue to be vigilant for effects that haven’t yet become apparent."

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