On 16 November, 2018, at least 250,000 litres of oil spilled approximately 350 km offshore from Newfoundland, Canada affecting an area with a signifcant seabird population. As of 23 November, Husky Energy, the owner of the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) SeaRose, confirmed that 18 oiled birds had been seen. Of these, three petrels and one guillemot were confirmed and dead four birds were captured and taken to a local rehabilitation centre. Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research from the USA is assisting in the response.
The incident occurred due to a subsea equipment failure during an attempt to restart the FPSO SeaRose after a storm. Strong winds and high seas in the aftermath of the storm delayed response to the spill, including oiled bird rescue, for several days after the spill. Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board reported that no oil sheens were found by the Monday after the spill. Trained wildlife observers are continuing to survey the area to provide data that the Canadian Wildlife Service will use in its wildlife population damage assessment.
Two leading seabird experts expressed concern that the numbers affected may actually be in the 10s or 100s of thousands given the time of year. Each autumn, the area where the spill occurred hosts millions of guillemots, little auks and other seabirds which migrate there from their breeding grounds in the Arctic. These species are long-lived and low reproduction rates, thus any losses may have serious long-term effects.
CBC News. 20.11.2018. Biologists wonder how many seabirds are dead after Husky oil spill off Newfoundland Labrador.www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/husky-energy-whiterose-searose-oil-spill-1.4912359
Niagara Falls Review. 22.11.2018.Fears for seabirds after oil spill: ‘There’s probably a lot more oiled birds.’ www.niagarafallsreview.ca/news-story/9046929-fears-for-seabirds-after-oil-spill-there-s-probably-a-lot-more-oiled-birds-/
Financial Post.20.11.2018.Newfoundland's largest-ever oil spill is now impossible to clean up. business.financialpost.com/commodities/energy/n-l-s-largest-ever-oil-spill-is-now-impossible-to-clean-up-regulatory-board
VOCM News.23.11.2018. Eighteen Oil-Slick Seabirds Found at SeaRose Spill So Far. vocm.com/news/eighteen-oil-slick-seabirds-found-at-searose-spill-so-far/
Dovekie Photo Credit: Peter Crosson