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Immediate Impact of the 'Exxon Valdez' Oil Spill on Marine Birds

John F. Piatt, Calvin J. Lensink, William Butler, Marshal Kendziorek and David R. Nysewander
The Auk
Vol. 107, No. 2 (Apr., 1990), pp. 387-397
DOI: 10.2307/4087623
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4087623
Page Count: 11
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Immediate Impact of the 'Exxon Valdez' Oil Spill on Marine Birds
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Abstract

On 24 March 1989, the oil tanker 'Exxon Valdez' spilled 260,000 barrels of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Oil eventually drifted over $30,000\ {\rm km}^{2}$ of coastal and offshore waters occupied by approximately one million marine birds. More than 30,000 dead birds of 90 species were retrieved from polluted areas by 1 August 1989. Of those identified, murres (74%), other alcids (7.0%), and sea ducks (5.3%) suffered the highest mortality from oil, and most (88%) birds were killed outside of Prince William Sound. A colony of 129,000 murres at the Barren Islands was probably devastated. Another 7,000 birds were retrieved between 1 August and 13 October, but most of those birds appeared to have died from natural causes. This later die-off was composed largely of shearwaters and other procellariids (51%), gulls (22%), and puffins (14%). Based on aerial and ship-based surveys for populations at risk, and extrapolating from the number of dead birds recovered, we estimate that the total kill from oil pollution was from 100,000 to 300,000 birds.

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