Small offshore oil spills put seabirds at risk: Industry self-monitoring failing

May 26, 2016

TORONTO, May 26, 2016 - Seabirds exposed to even a dime-sized amount of oil can die of hypothermia in cold-water regions, but despite repeated requests by Environment Canada, offshore oil operators are failing when it comes to self-monitoring of small oil spills, says new research out of York University.

Chronic pollution from many small oil spills may have greater population-level impacts on seabirds than a single large spill, suggest researchers Gail Fraser and Vincent Racine of York U's Faculty of Environmental Studies. However, seabirds are rarely considered in the monitoring of small spills from offshore oil production projects in Newfoundland and Labrador even though Environment Canada has asked that they be included.

In an article published in the international journal, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Fraser and Racine looked at how offshore oil operators monitored and responded to small spills (less than 1,000 litres) for three production projects off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In three high-profile environmental assessments Environment Canada repeatedly requested that impacts on seabirds be monitored following small spills, but this has not happened.

"Industry self-monitoring of spills has failed to collect information that would allow researchers to understand the impact of chronic oil spills on seabirds," said Fraser, who along with Racine is calling for independent observers on the offshore platforms. "Many seabird populations are declining and understanding sources of mortality is critical to their conservation."

Fraser and Racine looked at reporting and monitoring of spills between 1997 and 2010. The researchers obtained operator spill reports under an Access to Information request. They found there were 220 daytime spills. Reporting on the presence or absence of seabirds was done in only 11 (five per cent) of the cases. The Canadian Wildlife Service's seabird survey protocol should be followed when a spill occurs, but none of the reports showed evidence of that. The time it takes for a small spill to dissipate was also not in the spill reports and this information is required to estimate possible interactions of oil spilled with seabirds. "The lack of information on seabirds during oil spills indicates a need for third-party observers," said Fraser.

The joint federal and provincial Newfoundland & Labrador the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) is responsible for administering environmental assessment follow-up procedures, including monitoring and responses to oil spills. The C-NLOPB has repeatedly rejected calls for independent, third party observers on platforms while seemingly being incapable of enforcing Environment Canada's recommendations.

However, during the White Rose environmental assessment process the C-NLOPB publicly acknowledged "that should such circumstances arise, it is fully prepared to adopt a different regulatory approach, including consideration of full-time on-site oversight of the operations concerned." While the circumstances were not defined, Fraser argues that "A failure to collect information on seabirds during oil spills for 13 years is sufficient to demand the regulatory approach be changed to include third-party observers."
-end-
*Note: High res photos available, including the following.

http://news.yorku.ca/files/Oiled-Thick-billed-Murre-Cripple-Cove-Nfld-Nov.-28-2004.-Photo-credit-Ian-L.-Jones.jpg

http://news.yorku.ca/files/Oiled-Thick-billed-Murre-Cripple-Cove-near-Cape-Race-Newfoundland-November-28-2004.-Photo-by-Ian-L.-Jones.jpg

http://news.yorku.ca/files/Oiled-Thick-Billed-Murre-Cape-Shore-Newfoundland-4-December-2004.-Photo-by-Bill-Montevecchi.jpg

http://news.yorku.ca/files/Oiled-Common-Murre-Cape-Shore-Newfoundland-4-December-2004.-Photo-by-Bill-Montevecchi.jpg

York University is known for championing new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our 52,000 students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-discipline programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world's most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university - our 11 faculties and 24 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide.

Media Contact:

Sandra McLean, York University Media Relations, 416-736-2100 ext. 22097 / sandramc@yorku.ca

York University

Related Oil Spills Articles from Brightsurf:

Technology can help speed soil recovery after oil spills
Researchers use spectroscopy to quickly and cheaply analyze soils samples.

Oil-soluble transition metal-based catalysts tested for in-situ oil upgrading
The results of the study showed that the good catalytic properties of the new transition metal catalysts, as well as their low cost and easy accessibility, make them a potential solution in the aquathermolysis reaction and heavy oil recovery.

Smart sponge could clean up oil spills
Researchers have developed a highly porous smart sponge that selectively soaks up oil in water.

Safe solution to mop up oil spills: QUT research breakthrough
QUT researchers have come up with a new, safe way to clean up oil spills using compounds equally useful as common household cleaning products.

Mussels are inspiring new technology that could help purify water and clean up oil spills
Mussels are notorious maritime stowaways known for damaging the hulls of boats, but these same adhesive properties have widespread engineering applications, scientists in China and the United states write in review published July 10 in the journal Matter.

Evidence of multiple unmonitored coal ash spills found in N.C. lake
Coal ash solids in sediments collected from Sutton Lake in 2015 and 2018 suggest the North Carolina lake has been contaminated by multiple coal-ash spills, most of them apparently unmonitored and unreported.

How bacteria can help prevent coal ash spills
Researchers have developed a technique that uses bacteria to produce 'biocement' in coal ash ponds, making the coal ash easier to store and limiting the risk of coal ash spills into surface waters.

Newly discovered deep-sea microbes gobble greenhouse gases and perhaps oil spills, too
Scientists have discovered nearly two dozen new types of microbes, many of which use hydrocarbons such as methane and butane as energy sources--meaning they might be helping to limit the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and might one day be useful for cleaning up oil spills.

As Canadian oil exports increase, research explores effects of crude oil on native salmon
Oil spills spell disaster for affected wildlife, leading to detrimental outcomes, including suffocation, poisoning and problems related to exposure to crude oil and its components.

High-precision on-site analysis of precious metals in metallurgical waste spills
Researchers from Kanazawa University report in Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical the application of a portable and efficient method for the on-site analysis of wastewaters for the quantitative analysis of their gold, platinum and palladium content.

Read More: Oil Spills News and Oil Spills Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.