The tragic collision between two vessels in Galveston Bay on March 19, 2015 placed critical coastal habitat and wildlife under serious threat. With authorities working to contain and mitigate the damage created by up to 168,000 gallons of fuel oil spilling into the bay, environmental experts are quick to point out the terrible timing of these events as we are approaching the peak of spring bird migration.
Brian Trusty, Executive Director of Audubon Texas and a Vice President of National Audubon Society commented, “Galveston Bay is not only one of the world’s busiest seaports, but it also home to some of the most bio-diverse and ecologically sensitive areas on the Gulf coast. With the height of spring migration fast approaching, hundreds of thousands of birds are arriving in these waters and the surrounding environs to nest and breed. Managing healthy habitats in such close proximity to major commercial hubs and shipping traffic is incredibly challenging and requires constant vigilance.”
Audubon is responding at all levels to the oil spill catastrophe in the Galveston ship channel, with local efforts being led by the Houston Audubon Society chapter. Richard Gibbons, Houston Audubon's Conservation Director has been a strong voice of the environmental community on the devastating effects this tragedy can have on critical shorebird and colonial waterbird habitat in the immediate area of the spill. Audubon Texas, the state office of National Audubon Society, has been working closely with Houston Audubon and other local partners to maintain emergency response coordination, and to organize volunteer efforts for habitat clean-up and addressing oiled wildlife. Additionally, Audubon is remaining a consistent voice with regulatory agencies regarding expectations for clean-up and overall response effectiveness.
As of March 24, Audubon Texas has evaluated many of the barrier islands we manage within Galveston Bay to assess damage to these active rookery sites. So far damage appears to be contained within the immediate vicinity of the accident with several oiled birds washing up on nearby shores. Houston Audubon efforts are being coordinated with local emergency response officials to address these issues on the sanctuaries they manage being hit hardest by the tragedy. More information on these local efforts can be found at www.houstonaudubon.org.