Victory for biodiversity Erika judgement compensates bird welfare groups

Thursday, January 17, 2008
Reims, France
The notion of “ecological prejudice” has been recognised by a court for the first time in France. This is a victory for the wildlife welfare groups that took part in rescuing birds after the Erika disaster, including a team from the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) – www.ifaw.org), which contributed its experience and know-how to the “Bretagne Vivante” group.
We are very pleased that the verdict against the oil group Total, the Italian certification company Rina, the Italian owner Giuseppe Savarese and Antonio Pollara, chief executive of the Panship management company, will provide our partner Bretagne Vivante with considerable support for the criminal lawsuit that it has brought, the aim being, no more no less, to redress the prejudice caused by the gigantic oil slick caused by the shipwreck in December 1999.
 
When the disaster occurred, IFAW and its veterinary experts, who came in from various parts of the world, set up a tried and tested bird treatment procedure at the Theix clinic in the Morbihan region. Several thousand birds were brought in and a large number were successfully treated, though unfortunately an even larger number had to be put down. It has been estimated that the Erika oil slick killed between 200,000 and 300,000 birds – only 2,500 could be saved.
 
“We are very proud”, said Florence Paquet, IFAW France representative, “to have contributed to the limited success of the rescue effort, without forgetting the major environmental disaster that the incident caused, which demonstrates the steady fall in shipping safety standards”. Some 40% of shipwrecks occur because officers of the watch cannot keep a proper lookout due to undermanning. Marine safety is not just a technical issue; it is primarily a human problem. Although decisions to improve shipping safety have been made in Europe, this is far from the case in the rest of the world. The economic development of emerging countries has led to an increase in shipping traffic and the attendant risks. Since the wreck of the Erika and its cortege of dead birds, there have been more than seven hundred oil spills around the world, the latest occurring in San Francisco Bay and the Black Sea. There is every reason to fear that birds will be the main victims of the globalisation of the economy for many more years to come.

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