On January 19, 2004, the bulk ore carrier, Rocknes, capsized after striking rocks near Bergen, Norway. Tragically eighteen crewmembers lost their lives. Approximately 450 tonnes of marine fuel was spilled. Oil quickly spread over 15 kilometers of the Norwegian coastline, threatening the pristine fjord environment and oiling hundreds of animals.

In past oiling events in Norway, the government has utilized trained and certified sharpshooters to humanely euthanize oiled birds. Immediately following the Rocknes oil spill, a group of non-govemmental organizations (NGO's) working in Norway formed a coalition called “Action Clean Birds,” and asked the government for formal permission to mount an oiled wildlife response. Permission was granted on the stipulation that a professional oiled wildlife response team be brought in to oversee the animal capture, transport, rehabilitation and reconditioning of the animals. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Emergency Relief (ER) Team, co-managed by the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) was called upon to mount an oiled wildlife response effort.

As the first authorized response for oiled wildlife in Norway, the Rocknes spill provided a platform to work with local wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, ornithologists and others, increasing their capacity to respond locally to future events involving oiled animals. During the month-long response, 131 oiled seabirds were captured, 81 of those were rehabilitated, reconditioned and released, the others died or were humanely euthanized as they were deemed unviable for release.

If pre-planning had been involved, a significantly larger number of oiled birds could have been captured, increasing the probability that a higher percentage of them would have been viable for release due to early capture and treatment.

This case study of the wildlife portion of the Rocknes response reviews steps taken to mitigate the effects of oil on wildlife, as well as demonstrates the importance of planning and preparedness as it relates to the success of an oiled wildlife response.

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