Swedish Oil Spill Jeopardizes Birds in Stigfjorden Nature Reserve

The environmental consequences of our addiction to oil are innumerable; however, marine life continues to bear the brunt of fossil fuel accidents.

On September 10,2011, two boats collided off Denmark’s western coast causing a “substantial” oil spill.  Authorities did not learn about the oil spill until five days later.  The Copenhagen Post reports:

The suspected source of the oil spill is a cargo ship from Malta called the ‘Golden Trader’. It was in the North Sea approximately 20 nautical miles west of Thyborøn, Denmark, on Saturday, September 10, when it collided with a small Belgian fishing trawler called the ‘Vidar’. The boats collided in clear, calm weather.

Nearby ships and a helicopter were called in for assistance. ‘Vidar’ sustained minor damage, but tore a hole in the side of the larger cargo ship and oil began to spill into the sea, reports shipping news site Vesseltracker.com.

Clean up efforts are “under control,”, according to officials, yet the Stigfjorden Nature Reserve remains threatened as it is a “nesting site for vulnerable bird species”.

“It’s difficult to say how many birds are affected,” Tommy Järås, of the bird centre told Göteborgs Posten newspaper. “But presumably it could be hundreds, perhaps up to a thousand. There could be injured birds on the islands and reefs that can only be reached by boat.”

Designated in 1979, this marine protected area is a fjord between two large islands.  BirdLife International identifies three “trigger” species in Stigfjorden and calls it an “Important Bird Area” (IBA):

An IBA must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold significant numbers of one or more globally threatened species
  • Are one of a set of sites that together hold a suite of restricted-range species or biome-restricted species
  • Have exceptionally large numbers of migratory or congregatory species

The estimated number of birds affected by the Kattegat oil spill range from hundreds to thousands. It’s too early to tell, and the physical characteristics of the region makes it difficult to assess. These birds are also an indicator of how other marine species may be affected.

Where ever humans are involved, accidents are inevitable.  It’s unfortunate marine species must suffer disproportionately when oil spills occur.  We need to find another solution for our energy needs.

Image:  Attribution Some rights reserved by eutrophication&hypoxia

Written by Jennifer Lance

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