Volganeft 139

Source of pollution: 
Animals affected
Actual numbers of affected wildlife are not known. Initial estimates were that 30,000 birds were oiled. That number was likely based on estimates of bird populations found in the area, where wintering sea ducks congregate, at that time of year. There is, however, very limited information as no offshore surveys are regularly conducted.

This event is an illustration that a well-intended but inappropriately resourced wildlife response in a remote area should not be encouraged. It also demonstrates that experts who carry out an assessment can sometimes only offer advice based on experience and internationally agreed standards of good practice, which may not be popular. This incident demonstrates that a wildlife response needs rational decision making at all times.

A severe storm caused many ships to ground in the Strait of Kerch, between Ukraine and Russia, one of which was the Volganeft-139.

Amount and type of oiled spilled: 
4,000 tonnes of heavy oil
Wildlife Response: 

At the request of local responders, Sea Alarm sent a small team to assess the situation and the International Fund for Animal Welfare also sent two representatives. On site, it emerged that the rehabilitation of the oiled birds would have to take place in a relatively remote area without access to basic facilities (shelter, heating, electricity and water) were impossible to find within reasonable distance.

On the basis of their assessments, both teams advised that euthanasia of the captured animals (over a hundred coots) was the most appropriate treatment. This message was not accepted by the local responders, who preferred to try to do their best under the given circumstances. Their attempt to clean and rehabilitate the animals was unsuccessful and the majority of the birds died in their care. The six survivors were transferred to a regional zoo.