Birth of the modern EUROWA Network
In parallel with NGO-led efforts to cooperate internationally on oiled wildlife response, since 2008 European governments have made good progress in recognising oiled wildlife response as an important topic and working to integrate it into their working programmes at Regional Agreement level. Important inroads have been made into implementing national oiled wildlife preparedness via the three main European Regional Sea Conventions (the Helsinki Commission – Baltic Sea, the Bonn Agreement - North Sea and the Barcelona Convention - Mediterranean Sea).
With this growing recognition, it became clear that the logical next step was to create a larger, more formalised system of oiled wildlife response experts and equipment that could be mobilised via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism for any Member State dealing with a serious incident. This led to a new two-year EU-funded project (2015-16) being co-financed by the European Commission Civil Protection Financial Instrument. This was the EUROWA Project: EURopean Module for Oiled Wildlife Assistance.
Project objectives and setup
The objective of the project was to establish an international Module (according to European Commission terminology), consisting of a team of oiled wildlife response experts and a stockpile of critical equipment, both of which can be rapidly mobilised by European governments in the event of an oil spill. The project developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and a portfolio of centralised training packages that would enable wildlife response experts from any Member State to become qualified members of the Module. Development of the Module therefore provided a professional infrastructure for leading NGOs in every European country to be trained, allowing to improve in-country capabilities and the possibility to scale up a local incident up to international level via mobilising trained capabilities from the EUROWA network.
The EUROWA project consortium was made up of:
- Sea Alarm Foundation (coordinator)
- Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend; Belgium
- ProBird; Germany
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA); UK
- WWF Finland; Finland
- Tim Thomas, independent wildlife consultant
- Estonian Fund for Nature; Estonia
- Centre Vétérinaire de la Faune Sauvage et des Écosystèmes (CVFSE), France.
- Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the new Module, according to DG Echo guidelines and international standards for oiled wildlife response and preparedness.
- Portfolio of professional oiled wildlife responder training packages that are used to develop the skills and knowledge of European experts from various countries to qualify them to become members of the EUROWA Module. A range of Manuals and Handbooks were developed to accompany the training courses, which form the backbone of today’s EUROWA Standards series.
- Ensured continuation of European expert wildlife responder exchange meetings and expansion of the network.
- Provision of centralised training courses to the project team and interested organisations and individuals from Member States to allow the Module to draw from a considerable number of experts from different countries. The training courses can be utilised on an ongoing basis, which allows for expansion of the Module’s pool of experts and can help to boost national capabilities for oiled wildlife response. Pilot courses delivered during this phase included:
- Two team member training events.
- Advanced oiled wildlife responder event.
- Veterinary course event.
- Managers course event.
- Specialist training event (selected Field Modules).
- Database to keep track of people being trained on the basis of the new material and ensure a central register in order to maintain quality objectives.
- Maintenance programme for a European stockpile of oiled wildlife response equipment, also ensuring the availability and mobilisation of that stockpile for incidents.
- Availability of the new EUROWA Module through the European Commission’s Civil Protection Mechanism to European Member States and any eligible requesting country.