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The biologist's fear can increase the size of bird deaths after N.L. oil spill



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Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

Published Thursday, November 22, 2018 7:12 EST

ST. JOHN & S, N.L. – At least 15 seabirds have been seen after the largest offshore oil discharge in Newfoundland, but a biologist says the losses in the past show that the number could be in the thousands.

Husky Energy reported on Wednesday and one dead bird confirmed since it was estimated that 250,000 liters of oil were split into the sea on Friday during an intense storm.

The SeaRose platform was trying to restart production when there was a failure of equipment in a divisional line that released the oil.

Experts on seabirds say that the number of birds killed by oil could be months to do, but it is likely to grow.

Gail Fraser, a seabird biologist at York University, said that even a small number of bird birds have been concealed for concern and are likely to be a sign of much wider harm.

"The fact that they have found oily birds means that there are many more birds of oil there," said Fraser.

Previous oil leaks have ended with estimates of bird deaths that have grown to the thousands, he said.

It is estimated that the 2004 Terra Nova shore discharges 165,000 liters of oil to the sea has killed around 10,000 birds.

The biologist noted that the Terra Nova event had dropped less oil to the sea, but it happened at the same time as the latest event, which means that there are similar numbers of birds such as murres and a policy has been in the area.

Fraser said that "millions" of birds migrating to the region formed the Arctic around this time of year, and rough conditions of the weekend mean that there can be an accurate count of birds and killing is impossible.

"The conditions were terrible and that's making it a challenge to get good estimates of how many seabirds could be killed," said Fraser. "It's a kind of hand-made exercise and makes our best guess."

The birds of the region are particularly sensitive to oil pollution, says Fraser. The birds can die from hypothermia if even a little oil turns their lead.

They also have low reproductive rates and long lives, which mean a big hit to the population has a big impact.

Fraser believes that these features are not always reflected when companies are fined for the loss of seabird populations.

Syncrude Canada was fined $ 3 million in 2008 when more than 1,600 ducks were killed after landing in a custom pool. In comparison, $ 290,000 Petro-Canada was fined for the Terra Nova discharge believed to have killed 10,000 birds.

"The slaughter of 10,000 seabirds is ecologically difficult and the fine should reflect that."

Scott Tessier, chief executive of the Canadian-Newfoundland and Labrador Marine Petroleum Board, said no oil oil was seen on the water on Monday or Tuesday, which means that the oil is likely to break down to the point that can not be cleaned.

The board now focuses on wildlife monitoring and an investigation into the event.

Operators in the Newfoundland offshore industry are responsible for following their own security and environmental plans, and the regulatory board monitors and investigates when necessary.

Trevor Pritchard, senior vice president of Husky Energy at Atlantic Canada, said his team was following the company's plans and procedures, and his company is investigating what caused the equipment to go to & Dislike them.

"We have not seen anything that tells us that we did not follow our internal procedures," said Pritchard.

Husky provides the procedures to the regulatory board but Husky spokesman in an email that the company "does not disclose its specific operating procedures in public for security and commercial reasons."

Pritchard says Husky will not restart production until he has "confidence" in the entirety of the division system.

"Nobody wanted to see this event happen. It's a bad day for us. Can we change things, we can not know what they are again," says Pritchard.

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