In March this year, one of our members uploaded a video to YouTube about having found oil in the Amado Beach. Today, another of our members Fredrik from Aljezur sent us pictures of a bird covered in oil that he found yesterday also at Amado Beach.
Fredrik asked how come there was a bird covered in oil now. Were the oil companies already prospecting offshore in the Alentejo bay? Is this the type of things to come?
The answers to both our members is that although there isn’t offshore drilling yet taking place, the Algarve coast is indeed at risk from another source as well – maritime transport, more specifically the Algarve ocean is in fact one of the main maritime corridors carrying crude and other cargos.
What we are all experiencing in the Algarve West Coast is illegal oil tanks washing on the high seas which in itself cause major environmental damages such as: - Damage to Beaches, Marshlands and Fragile Marine Ecosystems. In fact, Portugal sits in one of the busiests oil transport corridors. So, it is not surprising that illegal activities are happening at sea.
When an oil slick reaches the beach, the oil coats and clings to every rock and grain of sand. If the oil washes into coastal marshes, mangrove forests or other wetlands, fibrous plants and grasses absorb the oil, which can damage the plants and make the whole area unsuitable as wildlife habitat.
When some of the oil eventually stops floating on the surface of the water and begins to sink into the marine environment, it can have the same kind of damaging effects on fragile underwater ecosystems, killing or contaminating many fish and smaller organisms that are essential links in the global food chain.
Oil-covered birds are practically a universal symbol of the environmental damage wreaked by oil spills.
Any oil spill in the ocean is a death sentence for sea birds. Some species of shore birds may escape by relocating if they sense the danger in time, but sea birds that swim and dive for their food are sure to be covered in oil. Oil spills also damage nesting grounds, which can have serious long-term effects on entire species.
The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, occurred during prime mating and nesting season for many bird and marine species, and the long-term environmental consequences of that spill won't be known for many years. Oil spills can even disrupt migratory patterns by contaminating areas where migrating birds normally stop.
Even a small amount of oil can be deadly to a bird.
By coating the feathers, oil not only makes it impossible for birds to fly but also destroys their natural waterproofing and insulation, leaving them vulnerable to hypothermia or overheating.
As the birds frantically try to preen their feathers to restore their natural protections they often swallow some of the oil, which can severely damage their internal organs and lead to death.
There are strong evidence that much needs to be done due to lack of proper management of hydrocarbon waste, which sees the regular and illegal practice of dumping the waste from tank washing at sea.
The optimistic declarations of the main international organisations for the prevention of marine pollution, the European Commission and the main oil tanker associations on the drastic reduction in dumping by tankers into the sea do not appear to be reflected in recent research.
In the Baltic, following some 5,000 hours of airborne surveillance per year, between 500 and 700 illegal discharges a year were detected which leads us to believe that the number of emissions must be much higher than those observed during airborne surveillance.
Added to this are the almost 700 illegal emissions detected in the North Sea following some 3,500 hours of flying. In other words, an illegal discharge has been detected for every 7-8 hours of flight. To be specific, 390 illegal discharges were detected in the Baltic and 596 in the North Sea in 2001.
Regrettably there are no similar airborne surveillance programmes in other European waters so the actual number of illegal discharges made each year is unknown.
Meanwhile, it is believed that illegal dumping of hydrocarbons must be much higher in non-monitored zones, which seems to be borne out by the estimates of hydrocarbon emissions in the Mediterranean, as the ships are well aware of the areas with the greatest supervision and avoid committing any infractions in them.
Even so, a study carried out in 1999 which analysed satellite photographs detected 1,638 illegal emissions in the Mediterranean alone.
The proposed oil and gas exploration of the Algarve and Alentejo basins will result in a massive increase of maritime transport, and with it not only will the Algarve have to contend with existing risks of maritime transport but also with the added risk of offshore drilling.
If you haven’t signed our petition yet, please do so now, alternatively download our petition forms and get all your friends and family to sign it.
Here’s the links for the online and paper petitions
Petition online: http://tinyurl.com/nxqqrg2
Petition forms for download: http://asmaa-algarve.org/index.php/en/campaigns/oil-and-gas-in-the-algarve/campaign-materials/petition-forms
See the video below - Praia do Amado