Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Marine Sentinals

Brazil: Oil Slick Kills 200 Penguins

Published: August 28, 2008

More than 200 oil-slicked penguins have washed up dead on the beaches of the resort of Florian√≥polis, and the authorities said people had reported seeing hundreds more dead. Manuela Osorio, a veterinarian, said 155 live penguins were being treated for “oil intoxication.” Marcelo Duarte of the Santa Catarina State environmental police said the oil probably leaked from a large ship. While it is common in Brazil for some penguins, dead or alive, to be swept by strong currents from the Strait of Magellan, the birds are showing up in greater numbers and farther north than most experts can remember.

Really, this is an animal story -- but can you imagine -- you finally get your family to that resort vacation you've been dreaming about -- and instead of shells there are penguin carcasses everywhere...

It was already a bad summer for the penguins…

Published: July 1, 2008

P. Dee Boersma, a biologist at the University of Washington, has been watching the Magellanic penguins of Punta Tombo, in Argentina, for almost 30 years. For most of that time, their numbers have been declining: breeding pairs are down 22 percent there since 1987, she writes in Tuesday’s issue of BioScience.

But the dwindling numbers do not just mean the birds are suffering, Dr. Boersma writes. Because penguins are “marine sentinels,” their decline is a blunt message that their marine environment is in trouble, chiefly from overfishing and pollution from offshore oil operations and shipping.

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