Today the National Audubon Society released a map showing the proximity of several globally significant Important Bird Areas to the site where Shell’s drilling rig Kulluk ran aground after breaking free of tug boat tow lines five times during a Gulf of Alaska storm.
“Shell has demonstrated that it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “America’s best scientists say we know so little about the deep freeze of an environment in the Arctic Ocean that we can’t fix it if Shell breaks it. The Arctic seas are far too important to the preservation of birds, polar bears and other wildlife to chance an ice-locked, BP-style blowout.”
The Kulluk grounding occurred within a globally significant Important Bird Area where roughly 180,000 seabirds nest and more than 100,000 Black Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, King Eiders, and Red-necked Grebes overwinter. Kiliuda Bay, where the Kulluk is being towed, is still within the same Important Bird Area.
Fortuitously, the Kulluk grounded ashore on the doorstep of the US Coast Guard station on Kodiak Island and massive public resources have been diverted from other parts of the state to help avoid a complete disaster. If this had happened in the Arctic Ocean, more than 1,000 miles away from the nearest Coast Guard station, Shell would not have the infrastructure, staff, or equipment on hand to effectively respond. The Coast Guard rescue operation included emergency evacuation of 18 Kulluk crew members by helicopter.
More ably than its harshest critics, Shell has proven that it is not prepared to operate safely in the Arctic Ocean.
Other Resources on Audubon Alaska’s website www.AudubonAlaska.org :