Spanish Wildlife Islands Now Engulfed By Oil – Rare Species At Risk Warns IFAW

Thursday, December 5, 2002
Pontevedra, Spain
Hundreds of oil patches from the sunken tanker Prestige off the northwest coast of Spain have surrounded the most important wildlife islands and some species of birds are at risk warns the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW, www.ifaw.org).
Three islands - Ons, Cies and Salvora – form the new National Maritime Atlantic Islands Park and are the most important nesting and migration locations for birds in the region.

Tens of thousands of birds inhabit and visit the island and nearby peninsular around Grove. IFAW is holding an urgent meeting tonight with the local wildlife authority Xunta to discuss how the search and rescue for birds can be improved in the maritime park.

“Several species, including the rare yellow-legged gull, are found nowhere else in the world. Our main concern now is that as the islands are fairly remote many birds could be dying and these rare species could be severely harmed,” said Jay Holcomb, the leader of the IFAW Emergency Relief Team that is running the rehabilitation center for oiled wildlife in nearby Pontevedra.

“We already have had several yellow-legged gulls turn up at the center thanks to fishermen bringing them in from the islands. It is clear that this is a major threat and our meeting today with the local authority is to make sure there is an adequate wildlife rescue operation in place. We need search and rescue teams to scour the shores of these islands every day.”

“This new maritime park was only set up in July and it is sad that the reason for its very existence is now at risk. On Ons alone there are 18,000 pairs of gulls and 2,000 shags. At the moment their futures are really under threat.”

The rehab center run by IFAW’s ER Team is currently handling 287 birds representing 10 different species. Hundreds of fishermen have formed an armada of boats cleaning up the countless patches of oil around the islands.

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