The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced that they, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the State of Rhode Island, have reached a proposed settlement of $13 million with the Bouchard Transportation Company, Inc. This could potentially have big implications for our Maine loon populations.
As the announcement notes, if the proposal is approved by the court, Bouchard Transportation Company, Inc. and its affiliates will be required “to pay more than $13 million to settle outstanding federal and state natural resource damages claims for an April 2003 spill of up to 98,000 gallons of oil into Buzzards Bay. Today’s settlement compensates for injury to migratory birds.”
The massive oil spill in 2003 resulted in the release of nearly 100,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil into the bay, soaking shorelines and having a devastating impact on migrating birds and wildlife in the area. Biologists estimate that thousands of birds will killed as a result of the spill, including approximately 500 Common Loons.
The bulk of the settlement, $7.3 million, will go to plan, implement, oversee, and monitor the restoration of Common Loons, which is good news for Maine. Even though the spill was in Massachusetts, because it happened in April, many of the Common Loons that perished were likely birds that bred in Maine.
The Northeast Loon Study Work Group — a cooperative effort that includes Maine Audubon as well as state agencies and other loon conservation NGOs throughout the northeast — has already drafted a proposal for loon restoration in New England, and we are looking forward to submitting that proposal when the funds are made available. This proposal would include outreach and education efforts to support safe, healthy, productive loons on Maine’s lakes and ponds, as well as loon raft deployment and long-term monitoring of loon productivity.
In the USFWS announcement, Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber said that, “Today’s settlement means we can help those migratory birds affected by the Bouchard oil spill, and help the communities that benefit from that ecotourism. We look forward to working with local organizations and state wildlife experts to restore the birds and protect their habitat.”
We will keep an eye on how this progresses and keep you updated. In the meantime, you can check out our Maine Loon Project site and learn more about our work on behalf of these iconic, amazing birds.