Napier Port spill close call for seabirds

Napier Oil Spill On the afternoon of January 24th a small oil spill occurred at the port of Napier. A hose failure on a crane caused up to 500 litres of automatic transmission fluid to leach into the port waters.

Hawke’s Bay NOWRT (National Oiled Wildlife Response Team) members Rod Dickson (HB Regional Council) and Brent Stephenson (Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ) were on hand to mount an oiled wildlife response.  Birds at risk included

  • Black-billed gulls - nationally critical
  • Red-billed gulls - nationally vulnerable
  • Black-fronted terns - nationally endangered
  • White fronted terns - declining
  • Little blue penguins.

Booms were quickly put out to contain the spill in port waters, but were initially unsuccessful due to rough weather. Whilst these weather conditions also impeded wildlife search and rescue, the weather assisted the oil to disperse relatively quickly. A combination of techniques was used to break up the oil – including absorbent booms, vacuuming of larger oil patches, spot-use of dispersants and use of boat jet-wash to help break up the oil.

The wildlife team assessed the main penguin habitat beneath the wharf and was happy that there was minimal risk to incoming penguins.   Wildlife monitoring continued into the night to watch for any penguins coming ashore to their burrows, but none were observed.  Monitoring continued the following day with the use of binoculars and scopes, with no evidence of any wildlife being oiled.

The value of oil spill training exercises was noted by HBRC and Port staff, who had recently held an exercise in the exact location of the spill.

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