The new study cited in The New York Times’ article was funded by plaintiffs’ lawyers who’ve been unsuccessful in their efforts to bring wildlife-related claims against BP, and the lead author himself works for an organization that has also been unsuccessful in its efforts to sue BP over purported wildlife impacts. The results of the models used in this paper are based on general assumptions by the authors. However, wildlife is managed on behalf of the public by federal and state natural resource trustees who are conducting the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). Data collected through the cooperative NRDA process show that many of the authors’ assumptions are not valid for the Deepwater Horizon accident. If the authors ran their models with numbers specific to the Deepwater Horizon accident, their estimates would be substantially lower.
For example, the authors assumed that only 1 percent of the birds that died at sea washed ashore. However, field studies conducted at the height of the response as part of the NRDA suggest that over 70 percent of birds washed ashore. The authors also assumed that search teams were unable to find most of the dead birds on shore. Their model assumed that searchers found only 42 percent of the large birds and 7 percent of the smaller birds. In reality, the ability of wildlife collection teams to find those birds was tested during the response, and was found to be 97 percent for large birds, 89 percent for medium-sized birds, and 78 percent for small birds.
To minimize potential impact on birds and other wildlife, BP, federal and state agencies and some of the nation’s top wildlife groups launched one of the largest-ever wildlife protection efforts immediately following the accident. While NRDA studies are ongoing, analysis of field observations conducted to date indicate that population and nesting impacts from the spill on birds were limited. Although not all NRDA data have been publicly released, BP is working to publish bird and other data on http://gulfsciencedata.bp.com.
Click here to read a white paper on the spill’s impact on the Gulf’s bird population.