Subject: Portland Oil Spill Threatens B
Sun, 6 Oct 96 22:05:00 GMT

Portland Oil Spill Threatens Birds, Coastal Wetland Habitat

    HADLEY, Mass., Oct. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Oil from a spill Sept. 28 in Maine's
Fore River in Portland has spread into coastal marshes imperiling sensitive
wildlife habitat and migratory birds, according to Deborah Anderson of the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region.
    Oil spilled into the Fore River when the T/V Julie N struck
Portland's Million Dollar Bridge, tearing gashes in the bow and releasing
approximately 170,000 gallons of cargo and vessel fuel.
    While the wildlife rehabilitation center has treated fewer than 20 birds,
the Service anticipates a higher toll during the coming days as birds eat food
contaminated with oil and as birds with oil on their feathers gradually become
incapacitated, Anderson said.  Birds can drown or die of hypothermia from
oil-matted feathers.
    Other wildlife in danger includes harbor seals, which have been sighted
swimming in oil in the Portland Harbor area.
    "The good news," according to Anderson, "is that the timing of the
spill, the location of the spill and weather conditions generally worked
together to minimize damage to large numbers of wildlife."
    By late September the migration for shorebirds and wading birds such
as the great blue heron has tapered off, and the second wave of migrating
waterfowl has not hit its peak, so wintering birds such as black ducks and
mallards have yet to arrive.
    Although most of the oil has been contained in the Fore River, more
birds, fish and marine mammals could be affected if wind, tides and currents
move the remaining oil out of the river into open sections of Casco Bay.
Migratory waterfowl that feed and roost in the Fore River during migration may
be in jeopardy as they arrive during the next few weeks.
    The Service, working with other agencies and conservation groups, had
previously identified and mapped habitat with particular value for wildlife in
the Portland area.  The most extensive oil damage to wildlife habitat in the
Fore River has occurred on the north shore in an area of wetlands that provide
vital habitat for migratory birds and serve as an important overwintering area
for waterfowl.
    Service staff is recovering oiled birds and assessing the oil's impact on
wildlife, along with staff from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration and the Maine departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife;
Marine Resources; Conservation; and Environmental Protection.
    "It may take months or years to fully assess the damage and understand the
long-term effects of the oil spill on fish and wildlife," Anderson said.
    The Service requests that the public not pick up wildlife that is
either dead or in distress.  Instead, call the Wildlife Hotline, 207-772-9238.
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region covers 13 states
from Maine to Virginia with more than 100 field offices.  Headquarters for the
region are located in Hadley, Mass.