OutsideOnline black-bellied plover birds oil spill Coastal Bend Texas
Black-bellied plover among soiled birds in the bay (Getty Images/iStockphoto/PaulRee)

Birds Threatened by Coastal Bend Oil Spill

100,000 gallons of heavy fuel and two weeks later

OutsideOnline black-bellied plover birds oil spill Coastal Bend Texas
Matthew Zampa

Texas’s Coastal Bend bird population can barely flap its wings after a barge and ship collided in Galveston Bay two weeks ago, coating the bay and its birds in 100,000 gallons of heavy fuel.

The Coast Guard has recovered more than 300 oiled birds—an overwhelming majority of them dead—from the bay thus far. Coastal Bend Bay research scientist David Newstead spotted 500 more soiled birds on Mustang Island (just southwest of the initial spill site) this week.

NOAA forecasts strong winds and high seas shifting northwest later tonight, which could be detrimental to Mustang Island’s bird population—especially the local piping plover, which is classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

“Particularly troubling [is] the ecologically sensitive area in which the birds have already been in peril from human activity,” Newstead told the Texas Tribune. Officials say residents, fisherman, and wildlife still have “at least several weeks” before the spill is entirely contained.

The Houston Ship Channel is open, and fishermen have gone back to work, but shrimpers continue to pull entire catches covered in oil.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/PaulRee