Posted: 06/18/2021 12:51:15 PM
It took 18 years, but New Hampshire’s loon population will finally benefit from an oil tanker spill that left 98,000 gallons of fuel oil along the Massachusetts coastline, killing at least 530 wintering loons.
“We know the New Hampshire loons were affected by this oil spill, some were lost. It was a real setback for our recovery efforts, ”said Harry Vogel, director of the Moultonboro Loon Preservation Committee.
The group received $ 844,881 out of the approximately $ 20 million settlement with Bouchard Transportation Co. It will be paid over five years, creating a “real boost” for the group, which has an operating budget. nearly a million dollars annually. Most of its income comes from donations and membership fees.
The spill occurred on April 27, 2003, when the Bouchard120 tank barge struck a rocky ledge in Buzzards Bay on the south side of Cape Cod, digging a 12-foot hole in its hull and spilling fuel oil on the beaches. from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Loons in northern New England and New York State were affected because Buzzard Bay is an important place to overwinter and many had not yet returned to their nesting grounds. summer. The settlement announced Wednesday includes payments to loon preservation groups in Vermont, Maine and New York as well as New Hampshire.
Vogel said the money would be used for the group’s various activities, including building rafts to facilitate nesting, skidding of loons’ nests to prevent boats from disturbing them, rescuing injured loons for rehabilitation and the education programs.
The programs include lead equipment buy-back efforts, which pay fishermen to hand in lead sinkers and jigs to help them purchase non-toxic alternatives. Lead material less than 1 ounce is illegal in New Hampshire because loons can swallow it and be poisoned. Details are at loonsafe.org.
The Loonie Preservation Committee dates back 45 years to a time when there were fewer than 100 pairs of birds on the state’s waterways. Last year, Vogel said, 321 territorial pairs were seen, a record, and 196 chicks hatched with 151 survivors. Although the population has tripled since conservation efforts began, biologists estimate that this is only about half of the population level that existed before human intervention.
The iconic bird faces other pressures, including the effects of climate change. “We are near the southern limit of their range, so they are at risk of increased temperatures and storms,” Vogel said.
As to why it took 18 years for a settlement to be paid following the Bouchard120 spill, Vogel said a number of factors were involved, including the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater oil rig. Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused the biggest oil spill. in history.
“The Deepwater Horizon spill has absorbed all the oxygen in the room” for preservation and settlement efforts, he said. “It was put on the back burner for a while.”
(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or [email protected] or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)