Reports of stranded oiled seabirds began being published in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries in Europe. During and after World War I, reports of oiled birds were common on European coastlines. World War II brought observations of oiled birds on European shores, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of North America. Numerous studies and publications have established that fugitive oil can be found on most of the worlds shorelines, and that it impacts birds at various rates of background oiling. With U.S. regulation and worldwide concern regarding compensation for injured natural resources, searches for and efforts to quantify birds associated with specific incidents have increased in recent decades. As a result, delineation between incident specific oiling and background oiling is subject to increasing scrutiny. Laboratory analytical methods and data interpretive techniques are available to confidently differentiate between oil sources and to definitively attribute oil samples to a particular source. Data are becoming available from a variety of incidents and have contributed substantially to the worldwide knowledge base. For example, in the NEW CARISSA case on the coast of the state of Oregon on the western shore of North America, a group of 27 birds recovered from areas specifically searched for dead and injured wildlife were presumed to be due to the vessel and included in the initial injury assessment. Forensic testing of the oil on the birds revealed that none of the birds were contaminated with the vessel source oils. Further studies were conducted to refine the incident specific oiling rate. While the specifics of each incident varies widely, the availability of background oiling information can assist in developing a more accurate and defensible estimate of injury.

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