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Amazzone: the impact


The first oiled birds beached on Ushant Island on 1st February, and thereafter on the continent. Most of the seabirds came from the Ushant region. According to the ornithological station on Ile Grande, the birds found were Northern Gannets, Guillemots and Razorbills. The consequences of the oils spill on the Razorbill populations were particularly serious as it was the reproductive birds which were affected.
Rescue and census operations were organised by volonteers from the SPNB (Society for the Study and Protection of Nature in Brittany) and the LPO (League for the Protection of Birds). In the Pleumeur-Bodou and the Lannion clinics, a particularly high mortality rate was reported. Oiled birds have a very low chance of survival, as the viscous oil sticks to their wings and attacks the flesh. In total, the Amazzone's oil killed almost 5,000 birds.

Bird killed by the Amazzone's pollution.
Bird killed by the Amazzone's pollution.

Economic impact

As a precautionary measure, the sale of marine produce from the risk zones was banned. Fishing was temporarily banned, due to a high mortality rate amongst cockles and clams in the Bay of Douarnenez. Stocks of fish, crustaceans, seashells and seaweed were destroyed to protect consumers. Piscicultural facilities were protected using booms. In the Rade de Brest, the deep-water oyster cultures remained unaffected. In a few rare cases, fishing boats and pots were soiled with oil. Although the majority of the waste was made up of oil trapped in seaweed, the seaweed industry did not suffer as the seaweed was cleaned before being harvested.

The tourism industry feared a decline due to the spill. Furthermore, repeated clean-up operations sometimes damaged the shores. Some beaches, such as in Audierne, were severly diminished. The reputation of the beaches was marred. However the shores were cleaned before the summer season began, and in the end economic damage to the tourist industry was minimal.

Ecological impact

The flora and fauna appeared to have suffered relatively little damage. The seaweed fields in northern Finistère, which are uncovered at low tide, may have been affected by the pollution. The booms set up to protect the oyster parks in Abers were not infallible, and waves could push oil over the top of them. The potential long term effects of the spill were a source of concern. Scientific and technical programs set up after the Amoco Cadiz disaster were resumed, and collaboration coordinated. Several articles resulted from the incident but no overall ecological report.

Last update: 01/07/2003