Emergency Wildlife Rescue Network Seeks Members
EMPOWER, a pan-European network of organizations that have joined forces to improve the professionalism and capacity of responses to marine wildlife emergencies, has opened its membership.
The network will support wildlife rescue organizations, veterinarians and scientists to work effectively with their authorities in cases where large numbers of seabirds, marine mammals or marine turtles suddenly wash ashore with health problems.
An oil or chemical spill, a toxic algae bloom or another emergency in the marine environment may suddenly threaten the lives of seabirds, marine mammals or marine turtles that are dependent of the affected area. If these animals become polluted their chances of survival are minimal. An emergency response in which wildlife responders are immediately mobilized may reduce the mortality. As part of such a response, scientific information must be collected to allow a reliable assessment of the impact the pollution had on the different populations.
Governments of European coastal countries are increasingly becoming aware that response plans should be in place for these emergencies. Over the last few years, countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and the Netherlands have developed wildlife response plans as part of their marine pollution emergency response plans. Following these examples, the countries bordering the Baltic, North, Mediterranean and Black Seas are considering taking similar steps. Some fundamental decisions to this end have been taken in international meetings where these countries cooperate in the field of marine pollution response preparedness.
EMPOWER aims to prepare and support nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to work with their governments and make the wildlife response plans effective. The new network seeks to ensure that structural relationships between NGOs and oil spill authorities are developed and maintained in all coastal European countries and are formalized as part of national oil spill response plans.
EMPOWER was first initiated in 2008 by Sea Alarm Foundation, together with a core group of 8 Founding Members from across Europe. Sea Alarm Foundation will act as the secretariat of EMPOWER and will be the main catalyst of the activities of the network. The other Founding Members have taken a seat in the Steering Committee, which in the future will have a rotation scheme to reflect the backgrounds and interests of the membership. Sea Alarm is enabled to play its catalyst role through operational grants it receives from the European Commission and the oil industry.
"EMPOWER is a new chapter in our 10-year history in which we have been encouraging wildlife responders and authorities to take the necessary steps toward a greater level of preparedness" says Hugo Nijkamp, Sea Alarm's general manager. "From the beginning of the year 2000 Sea Alarm has been cooperating with European wildlife groups and creating an international network of similar minded organizations that want to be prepared. The creation of EMPOWER will mean the formalization of that network. Seventy to over a hundred organizations from across Europe may eventually join. With a greater visibility of who we are and what we want, we are confident that authorities will lose much of their cold water fear to partner with NGOs in emergency situations. We have some success stories from different countries which demonstrate that such cooperation is essential and can be very effective. In the situation where climate change increasingly causes problems in the breeding success of many seabird populations, the effective response to emergencies will become more and more important."