WWF helps with oil spill clean-up efforts in Estonia



Posted on 01 February 2006  | 
Tallinn, Estonia – An oil spill off the northwestern coast of Estonia has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of seabirds, including gulls and long-tailed ducks. Estonia’s border guards have patrolled the coastal waters, but have not been able to identify where the leak may have come from.

“Heavy winds have made it difficult to pinpoint the origin of the oil,” said Tõnis Ulm, head of the Environment Centre of Western Estonia. “A leak from a tanker off the coast could be a possible explanation.”

Volunteers from WWF's associate organization, Estonian Fund for Nature, have been helping local authorities clean up several kilometres of an oil-stained shoreline, as well as save birdlife. Some oil-stained wildlife has also been detected on Finland's southwestern coast, but no oil slicks have been seen there. WWF-Finland has sent oil-combating equipment to help with the clean-up efforts in Estonia and is ready to help if local authorities ask for additional assistance.

“The oil accident off the coast of Estonia shows that the Baltic Sea countries do not have effective oil spill response measures in place,” said Jari Luukkonen, WWF-Finland’s conservation director.

“The same nightmare could take place in Finland since some 10,000 ships operate in the Gulf of Finland each month, yet the country lacks a proper action plan and technical response measures to take care of thousands of oil-stained birds.”

WWF-Finland is calling on the Finnish government to set aside funds in the state budget for more effective oil response measures.

“Finland needs a transportable bird cleaning unit, a proper oil spill response plan for wildlife, and further resources to deal with wildlife casualties,” Luukkonen added.

In May 2006, WWF-Finland will offer a training course on washing and caring for oil-stained birds. Some 3,500 volunteers have registered as oil combat troops, with over 300 trained. WWF-Norway, WWF-Russia, and WWF's Arctic Programme have also established voluntary oil-combat troops based on the Finnish model.

“The responsibility of saving wildlife following an oil spill cannot fully rest on volunteers,” Luukkonen said. “However, we are trying to help the best we can.”

For further information:
Päivi Rosqvist, Head of Press
WWF-Finland
Tel: +358 9 7740 1040
E-mail: paivi.rosqvist@wwf.fi

Thousands of birds have been affected by the oil spill off the coast of Estonia.
© Anu Valind / ELF Enlarge

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required