The Sea Empress oil spill (Wales, UK): effects on Common Scoter Melanitta nigra in Carmarthen Bay and status ten years later

Alexander Banks, William Sanderson, Barry Hughes, Peter Cranswick, Lucy Smith, Sian Whitehead, Andrew Musgrove, Bob Haycock, Neil Fairney

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    10 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Carmarthen Bay, UK, regularly supports internationally important numbers (>16,000) of non-breeding Common Scoters Melanitta nigra. The spill of 72,000 tonnes of crude oil from the Sea Empress in 1996 affected birds both through direct mortality and likely pollution of key food resources. Numbers were greatly reduced following the spill, whilst changes in the distribution of birds within Carmarthen Bay suggested that potentially sub-optimal foraging zones were used. However, ten years after the incident, numbers of Common Scoter were no different to those recorded immediately before the spill. Compared to some other spills, rapid revival is evident. Numbers increased to pre-spill levels within three winters and distributional changes suggested a concurrent return to previously contaminated feeding areas, implying that the ecosystem had regenerated sufficiently to support its top predator. The importance of prolonged, standardised monitoring of bird numbers and distribution as indicators of ecological recovery from environmental damage is
    emphasised.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)895–902
    Number of pages8
    JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
    Volume56
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - May 2008

    Keywords

    • Seaducks
    • Wales
    • Population recovery
    • Crude oil
    • Shipwreck
    • Ecosystem health

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