WASHINGTON -- In a few weeks, millions of waterfowl and other migratory birds will soon begin their fall migration to wintering and stopover habitat along the Gulf Coast. In anticipation of this event, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with partners to anticipate and minimize the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill on these birds.
The Service will continue to monitor the impact of the ongoing spill on waterfowl, and will take those impacts into account when establishing waterfowl hunting frameworks for the upcoming season.
Working with conservation partners, the Service is also preparing to implement a range of on-the-ground habitat conservation and management measures near the oil-impact area in the Gulf designed to minimize the entrance of oil into managed habitats along the Gulf and to enhance the availability of migratory bird food resources outside the oil impact area.
Recently obtained results of annual spring waterfowl population surveys indicate that population sizes of most duck species and breeding habitat conditions are good this year.
"While the current information we have suggests that regulatory restrictions on waterfowl hunting are unnecessary, we remain very concerned about both the short and long-term impacts of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill on migratory birds, their habitats, and the resources on which the birds depend," said Paul Schmidt, the Service's Assistant Director for Migratory Birds.
From a National harvest-management perspective, the Service intends to respond to the ongoing oil spill as it would any other non-hunting factor with the potential for substantial effects on mortality or reproduction - such as hurricanes, disease outbreaks or drought - by monitoring abundance and vital rates of waterfowl and other migratory game birds, and adjusting harvest regulations as needed on the basis of existing harvest strategies.
Through the Adaptive Harvest Management process and associated species-specific harvest strategies, monitoring data are explicitly linked to regulatory decision making, ensuring that appropriate regulatory actions will be taken if warranted by changes in continental population status.
The provision of additional, reliable food sources could also help buffer against the worst-case scenario - an early winter in northern portions of the Mississippi and Central Flyways, combined with dry habitat conditions in the northern Mississippi Alluvial Valley that would result in large wintering waterfowl populations along the Gulf Coast. The Service is working with partners to determine whether certain refuges and other habitat should be available as "sanctuary" (areas closed to hunting) to encourage bird use of these areas and minimize redistribution due to disturbance.
While large-scale efforts to influence bird migration and distribution would be extremely difficult given the importance of weather on the timing and speed of bird migrations, actions that prompt re-distribution of birds at smaller scales could help reduce oil exposure.
There remains considerable uncertainty regarding the short-term and long-term impacts this spill will have on waterfowl and other migratory game birds that utilize the impacted region during all or part of their annual life cycle.
The Service is working with partners to assess potential pathways for long-term acute and sub-lethal effects of the oil spill on the full suite of migratory birds utilizing Gulf (or other impacted) habitats during some portion of their life cycle. The intent of this assessment is to assist in identifying potential mitigation and conservation measures as well as long-term monitoring and assessment needs for migratory birds.
During the upcoming summer regulatory meetings, the Service will have the opportunity to discuss the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill response and appropriate regulatory measures with state wildlife agencies through the Flyway Council process. One focus of these discussions will be whether any additional regulatory or conservation measures should be considered for the upcoming hunting season, especially for species of concern or species that rely on a restricted range of threatened resources.
"We will continue to work with the states and the conservation community to ensure that reasonable and science-based measures are implemented in the face of the ongoing crisis in the Gulf, and that the rationale for decisions regarding harvest regulations or other actions are clearly communicated to the public," added Schmidt.
For more information on oil spill impacts to migratory birds and other wildlife, please visit the Deepwater Horizon Web site at www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com or on the Service's web site at www.fws.gov.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
For information about the response effort, visit www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
- Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center Contact:
- (713) 323-1670
- (713) 323-1671
Key contact numbers:
- Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information: (866) 448-5816
- Submit alternative response technology, services or products: (281) 366-5511
- Submit your vessel for the Vessel of Opportunity Program: (866) 279-7983 or (877) 847-7470
- Submit a claim for damages: (800) 440-0858
- Report oiled wildlife: (866) 557-1401