Avian disaster

Published: Tuesday 28 February 2006

Looking slick A recent major oil spill off Estonia's northwestern coast has damaged the marine ecosystem in the Baltic Sea and its delicate bird population, authorities said.

The spill was located in the coastal areas of Laane and Harju counties, some 100 km southwest of the capital, Tallinn. It was caused by an unidentified ship, which might have deliberately leaked the oil, according to Estonia's environment ministry.

The spill could kill as many as 35,000 birds -- far more than previously feared. Many birds have already died. "The oil has coated the feathers of many birds including swans and the rare long-tailed duck, which spend the summer in Sweden and Norway and the winters in Estonian waters," said Estonian Fund For Nature spokesperson Kristel Toom. Icy conditions were complicating the clean-up effort.

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