3.3 The Effects on the Wildlife

The results the oil spill had for the environment were terrible and cannot yet be described completely. First of course the wild life suffered devastating losses. Sea birds, including many rare species, were among the worst affected. By June it was reported that more than 6,900 oiled birds of at least 28 different kinds had been collected by helpers, either dead or alive. Two thirds of them were common sea ducks (scoters) and the rest were mostly guillemots and razorbills. The highest rate of contaminated birds was reported between February 24 and March 4.13 The disaster occurred at a very bad time of the year when the birds were returning to their breeding places on land, especially on Skomer Island or nearby Skolkholm, but also Lundy Island. These islands are nature reserves of great national and even international importance with high bird populations. Thousands of birds return to them for breeding every year.

Not only birds but also grey seals and dolphins were threatened by the oil to some extent. Many were treated in special centres but fortunately no deaths were reported.14 The marine biologist Robin Crump fears that nearly all, if not all, of the very rare green rock-pool starfish, Asterina phylactica, and about 3,000 other common starfish in West Angle Bay have been killed.

Besides this, of course, the shoreline and land environment itself suffered from the oil pollution, as limpets, periwinkles, barnacles, sea slaters, coralline algaes and seaweeds were affected to a great extent.

I must not forget especially to report about the impact of the harm done to the fish in the area. Fin fish were only poisoned in rare cases, but shellfish such as bivalve molluscs (clams, mussels, etc.) were badly contaminated.15

13 cf. SEEEC Report, p. 3 (1.2.4)
14 cf. SEEEC Report, p. 3 (1.2.4)
15 cf. SEEEC Report, p. 3; Copy 'Welsh Wildlife at risk' in: reference document n 1 (Map)

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Last Updated: 29-01-10