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No oiled birds spotted in Witless Bay area

An oil sheen is pictured on the water in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve Friday.
An oil sheen is pictured on the water in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve Friday.

There are no sightings of oiled birds along the southern shore so far following the discovery on Friday of an oil sheen on the ocean surface within the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.

In a statement Tuesday, the Canadian Coast Guard said its environmental response surveillance flights — and surveys by boat of the area on Saturday along with the Canadian Wildlife Service — confirmed there was no pollution in the area.

The Canadian Coast Guard is continuing to monitor the area.

That information is supported by the local chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NL) which stated on Saturday that there were no sightings of oiled birds but the group has asked people to keep an eye out during the next few weeks.

The group operates the Puffin Patrol on the southern shore in which volunteers rescue young puffins this time of year and safely releases them back into the Atlantic Ocean.

CPAWS-NL member Lorna Yard said the pollutant in question was described as light-grade diesel “which is better than oil.”

“The heavy rains overnight (Friday) seemed to have helped disperse it half decently and kept the puffins in their burrows,” Yard said on Saturday. “There were only 10 puffins found on puffin patrol on (Friday night and Saturday) morning and they showed no signs of being exposed. The tour boats did see a slight sheen on the water (Saturday) morning around Bay Bulls and Witless Bay but it seems to be dissipating fairly well.”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said the U.S. fishing vessel Eyelander was removed from the rocks on Green Island on Friday after it was reported to have grounded there.

The vessel has been at dock in Witless Bay since the incident and is under a “stop sail” order by Transport Canada.

The vessel has approximately 5,000-6,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board. It is reported that the vessel lost 10-15 gallons of diesel overboard from a bilge pump during the grounding.

“A Canadian Coast Guard Atlantic Environmental Response crew cleaned up all recoverable pollution from the 10-15 gallons of diesel released from the vessel near Green Island,” a statement read. “The remainder of the non-recoverable diesel sheen dispersed with wave and tidal action.”

Meantime, two dive surveys have been completed on the fishing vessel with no sign of diesel or oil leakage.

“Transport Canada and Canadian Coast Guard Atlantic are working with the owner (of the vessel) on a tow plan to have the vessel towed to a repair facility and taken out of the water for repairs,” the statement read. “Canadian Coast Guard Environmental Response has issued a Letter of Undertaking to the owner to secure funds to cover Coast Guard’s response costs for the incident.”

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