Hunters forced to throw away oiled birds

Josh Pennell
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he smell of bunker C hits Change Islands

A westerly wind brought the smell of bunker C oil from a sunken ship to the shores of Change Islands on Thursday and with it the discovery of more oiled sea ducks.

Cory Brinson is a hunter from the area. He shot four common eiders Thursday, two of which had oil on them.

“One was worse than the other, but that one was covered. Major covered,” he says.

So much so the bird couldn’t be kept to eat.

“You could smell the diesel all on it as soon as I picked it up.”

His father, Pearce, was onshore and picked up a couple of his son’s birds that blew in.


Smell of diesel on the beach

“I was out picking up those birds and I could smell the oil around the beach, yes,” says Pearce.

Oil in the area of Change Islands and Fogo Island has been an issue since last winter, when it was first noticed.

It was determined that the oil was coming from the Manolis L, a paper carrier that went down in 1985 during a storm in an area known as Blow Hard Rock — between Bacalao Island and Change Islands.

The coast guard made attempts to seal the oil leaking from the ship earlier this year, but recently hunters in the area have been picking up oiled eiders and turres.

Another hunter known to Cory and his father shot several birds Thursday as well, and they, too, were so covered in oil they had to be thrown away.

The westerly wind that was blowing was in line between the sunken paper carrier and Change Islands, Cory says. He’s worried what might happen in the spring when common eiders migrate back through the area again, this time in rafts thousands deep.

“If all them pitches in an oil slick like that, that’s a lot of damage,” he says.

The Canadian Coast Guard was calling around to some of the concerned locals Thursday.

Bob Grant is an environmental response officer with the coast guard. He says it is committed to doing another ROV survey of the ship in the near future when the weather allows. It is also looking at other options, such as getting the oil out of there altogether.

“We are looking at long term plans, but it’s really premature to say how much they’re going to cost,” he says. #

They have five or so expressions of interest from international salvage operations should that prove to be a viable option, Grant says. The immediate focus though is getting a weather window to get back on site.

The coast guard has been doing aerial monitoring and has another flight planned for today should the weather allow for it. Barry Brinson, a hunter who lives on nearby Fogo Island, says more proactive action is needed.

”This is only a waste of time. I understand that they got to do it. But see, it’s not their fault. It’s not coast guard’s fault. It’s the government’s fault. They got to OK the money to get it fixed.”

Barry says he also realizes it’s a tricky operation and a dangerous one and doesn’t expect anything to be done overnight.

While the coast guard looks at the best option, its asking people in the area to work with its personnel.

“We want to work with the locals to get as much of the knowledge as they have about the particular areas, what they’re seeing and that kind of stuff,” says Grant.

The environmental emergency line people should call to inform the coast guard of oil or oiled birds in the area is 709-772-2083.

Organizations: Canadian Coast Guard

Geographic location: Change Islands, Fogo Island, Bacalao Island

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Recent comments

  • sc
    December 13, 2013 - 09:46

    The Coast Guard should simply admit that it is unable and unwilling to fix the problem. Its efforts to stop the leak with the equivalent of bubblegum and tape have failed miserably. Now it simply sits back and observes the oil escaping while seabirds are dying and and the shoreline is being fouled. Everyone knows where the oil is coming from and the consequence that oil is having but the Coast Guard is content with 'monitoring the situation'. What further proof does it need that oil is escaping? Presumably it's waiting until all the oil is released and it can say that it's now too late to do anything. If there was any real desire to stop the oil from leaking, it would have been stopped long ago (did no one during the past almost 20 years realise the oil would escape sometime?). The problem is that ito do something, instead of simply suggesting that something could or should be done costs money. It's cheaper to do nothing and let the oil kill wildlife and destroy the shores. This inaction says a lot about Canada's and the province's alleged committment to protecting the environment.

  • Gern
    December 13, 2013 - 08:43

    The hunters had to throw the birds away. I'm more concerned with the birds who have suffered and died and for those will yet meet that fate due to the oil. If anyone in charge had any sense or environmental concern at all, the oil would long ago have been pumped out of the wreck. What are 'they' waiting for?