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Introduction and General Information

Contingency planning is widely recognised to be important in order that the response to oil spills can be implemented in a timely and appropriate fashion in the event of any oil spill. (D166)

A contingency plan needs to be developed for a particular geographical location. It needs define the policy, responsibilities and rational for the plan, including consideration of the risks of oil spills occurring in the area covered by the plan, and how the response will be organised, set out an operational plan for the response, and include as much as possible of the data (e.g. maps showing resources requiring protection) that will be required to make decisions during the spill response without the need to access other sources of information. (D166)

Oiled wildlife response, like other components of oil spill response, benefits greatly from contingency planning. (D183.w9, P14.5.w13)

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Main Components of Contingency Plans

Contingency plans for general oil spill response may be divided into three sections. (D166)
  • An overall strategy section, defining policy, responsibilities and the rational for the plan. This includes: (D166)
    • Identifying the authority or lead agency responsible for formulating and implementing the plan, together with the scope of the plan and an explanation of what, if any, statutory requirements responsibility is based on;
    • Assessment of spill risk, including expected frequency and size of spills, and the types of oil most likely to be involved;
    • Probable movements and persistence of spilled oil;
    • Priority resources for protection, including amenity areas, ecologically sensitive areas, industrial intakes of water, fisheries, seabirds, etc., together with seasonal variations (e.g. increased priority of biologically sensitive areas during a breeding season or when the area is used during migration);
    • Selection of techniques for the response, including the clean-up strategy in relation to risk assessment and defence of agreed priority areas, decisions regarding location of equipment (e.g. central location with associated requirements for longer-distance mobilisation, or duplication of equipment at local high-risk sites), estimated personnel requirements and identification and agreement on temporary storage sites and disposal routes for oil and oily wastes.
    • An outline of organisation for the response, including nomination of an overall command, co-ordination between interested parties, a communication centre, logistical support (including e.g. provision of food, clothing, shelter and medical support, as well as additional equipment and consumables for the response, and transport), how actions will be documented, arrangements for liaison with other interested parties, and procedures for training, exercises and updating of the plan (see below- Requirements for Training, Testing and Review).


  • An operational plan setting out procedures to follow in the event of a spill, including: (D166)
    • Notification regarding a spill;
    • Evaluation of the threat posed by the spill, based on trajectory, location of threatened resources, type of oil involved, priorities for protection of threatened resources.
    • Response options, such as monitoring, combatting oil at a distance from threatened key resources, protection of specific sites e.g. by booms, decision making on clean-up priorities and selection of required equipment and personnel.
    • Procedures for all components of clean-up operations;
    • Communications
    • Clean-up termination, including liaison with all interested parties regarding appropriate levels of clean-up, standing down, cleaning and storage of equipment, as well as replacement of consumables, restoration of temporary storage sites, tidying of work areas, and preparation of a detailed report on the operation.


  • A data section, including (D167)
    • Relevant maps;
    • Lists, data sheet and support information for incident assessment. 
    • Note: "A plan should be reasonably complete in itself and should not entail reference to a number of other publications, which causes delay." (D166)
    • Maps need to include information on:
      • shoreline types (see: The Thames River- Habitats and Oiling); (D226)
      • subtidal habitats and species, such as seagrass beds, corals and kelp beds (see: The Thames River- Habitats and Oiling - Seagrasses); (D226)
      • wildlife species, including feeding and breeding areas where individuals may be concentrated (estuaries important for shorebirds during migration, seal haulout sites etc.); (D226)
      • fishing (commercial/subsistence) including shellfish, aquaculture, nursery areas for fish and crustaceans, permanent/semi-permanent fish traps, entrances of rivers which are important for migratory fish; (D226)
      • socio-economic areas of importance: (D226)
        • "boat facilities such as harbours, marinas, moorings, slipways and boat ramps;
        • industrial facilities, for example water intakes for power stations and desalination plants, coastal mining, and salt evaporation lagoons;
        • recreational resources such as amenity beaches, bathing enclosures, water sport and game-fishing areas; and
        • sites of cultural, historical or scenic significance, on or close to the shore."


      • Areas of military importance, where access may be restricted or prohibited. (V.w73)
  • Note: "Any wildlife response plan needs an assessment regarding the species that occur within its geographical area." (D183.w4)

NOTE: Requirements for Training, Testing and Review

  • Training programmes should be developed and response exercises should be conducted to ensure that all personnel likely to become involved in spill response are familiar with their responsibilities. (D166)
  • Periodic mobilisation and deployment of equipment provides a check that equipment is actually available and that performance is as expected. (D166)
  • The best opportunity for a contingency plan to be reviewed and improved is immediately following an actual spill, when freshly learned lessons can be incorporated. (D166)
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General Oil Spill Response Contingency Planning in the UK

Tidal Thames Oil Contingency Plan

Under the Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation Convention) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998 No 1056), the Port of London Authority (PLA) has a statutory duty to report any spillage of oil or other hazardous material to MCA Coastguard, and to prepare plans and clean up oil spillages from within the port limits. (W553.Feb05.w1)

The Port of London Authority has a detailed contingency plan for Tier 1 and Tier 2 oil spills.

The Thames Oil Spill Clearance Association was formed by the PLA and oil industry companies using the Thames, "to provide a united response to oil spills occurring in the tidal Thames." (D165) Further information on the role, capabilities and equipment of TOSCA are provided in D165 -TOSCA- Thames Oil Spill Clearance Association (Available in full).

Clean-up of the shorelines is the responsibility of the relevant Local Authority, as indicated in the National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution from Shipping and Offshore Installations.

To report an oil spill the Port of London Authority may be contacted directly or by dialling 999 and asking to speak to the River Police.

Other waters within London

  • For other waters within London, including the Thames River upstream of Teddington Lock (i.e. the non-tidal portion of the Thames River), other rivers, lakes, canals etc., the Environment Agency is responsible for oil spill response and may be contacted on its 24-hour Emergency Hotline number: 0800 807060.
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National Contingency Plan for the UK

The lead for national contingency planning for coastal and harbour oil spills in the UK is taken by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)

The legal basis for the National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution from Shipping and Offshore Installations is section 293 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, as amended by the Merchant Shipping and Maritime Security Act 1997. The plan also meets the obligation of the UK government under the OPRC Convention (International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation 1990). (D134)

The following information is taken directly from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) information on Counter Pollution and Response (W468.Jan2003.w1):

In the UK, spills are categorised by the internationally adopted Tier system :

TIER ONE : A small operational spill employing local resources during any clean-up.
TIER TWO : A medium sized spill, requiring regional assistance and resources.
TIER THREE : A large spill, requiring national assistance and resources. The National Contingency Plan will be activated in this case.

Various other organisations also have a responsibility to respond to pollution in the U.K. :

  • MCA - Takes the lead in pollution from shipping at sea.
  • PORTS, HARBOURS, OIL FACILITIES & OFFSHORE INSTALLATIONS - Have a statutory responsibility for clean-up in their jurisdictions, ports to tier 2, offshore installations to tier 3.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATOR – Takes the lead in responding to pollution from land based sources.
  • LOCAL AUTHORITIES / Environment and Heritage Service (in Northern Ireland) - Have accepted the non-statutory responsibility for shoreline clean-up.

The UK's National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution from Shipping and Offshore Installations, developed by The Maritime & Coastguard Agency, sets out the overall plan for oil spill response in the UK.

It notes that:

4.1 In managing the counter pollution response to an incident, the hierarchy of aims is:
  • first, to prevent pollution occurring;
  • second, to minimise the extent of any pollution that occurs;
  • third, to mitigate the effects of that pollution.

Harbour authorities have a standard duty to plan a response to marine pollution incidents in their waters and the MCA has produced the  Contingency Planning for Marine Pollution Preparedness and Response: Guidelines for Ports to assist harbour authorities in this. (D167)

For inland oil spills, including those affecting rivers, streams, lakes and canals, in England and Wales, responsibility lies with the relevant environmental regulator (W468.Jan2003.w1), i.e. in England the Environment Agency, in Scotland with SEPA, in Wales the Environment Agency Wales (part of the Environment Agency) and in Northern Ireland, the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS)

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Role of Local Authorities

The MCA's "National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution from Shipping and Offshore Installations" sets out in Appendix A: Roles and Responsibilities of Key Organisations the following role for local government within oil spill response:
Local authorities

A.34 Local authorities have no statutory duty to plan for, or carry out, shoreline clean up, but have accepted a voluntary commitment to do so. MCA supports local authorities by maintaining stockpiles of beach cleaning equipment; providing residential training courses on oil spill response and contingency planning; by providing hands-on demonstrations of beach-cleaning equipment and booming exercises; and by participating in local authority training exercises.

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Role of the Environment Agency

The MCA's "National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution from Shipping and Offshore Installations" sets out in Appendix A: Roles and Responsibilities of Key Organisations the following role for the Environment Agency within oil spill response:
EA [SEPA in Scotland] is responsible for protecting the environment as a whole (air, land and water) within “controlled waters”. These are territorial waters within three nautical miles of the territorial sea baselines. EA and SEPA regulate:
  • discharges to controlled waters (they are the lead agencies for land-based pollution sources);
  • the disposal and management of waste;
  • some coastal and estuary flood defences; and
  • salmonid and other migratory fisheries and, in some cases, sea fisheries.

The EA and SEPA also manage, monitor, and control the water quality of all controlled waters. They have responsibilities for waste regulation
and can provide advice on the following:

  • waste minimisation to reduce the amount requiring disposal; 
  • the location and form of temporary storage and treatment areas; 
  • the disposal options for wastes.

Note that while the Environment Agency has joint responsibility with MCA for spillage of oil in the marine environment, the lead is normally taken by MCA. (W39.21Jun05.w1) For spills from land-based sources, the environmental regulator (in England and Wales, the Environment agency) takes the lead. (W468.Jan2003.w1)

  • Responsibility for pollution from land-based sources is placed with the Environment Agency, for England and Wales, (and in Scotland with SEPA) by the Environment Act 1995. (D167, LUK28)
  • The Environment Agency will ensure that those responsible for oil pollution incidents clean up the pollution or, if no responsible party can be identified, will clean up the oil. (W39.21Jun05.w1)
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Role of Nature Conservation Organisations

The MCA's "National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution from Shipping and Offshore Installations" sets out in Appendix A: Roles and Responsibilities of Key Organisations the following roles for the nature conservation organisations within oil spill response: 
Nature conservation organisations

A.40 Four organisations deal with nature conservation issues in Great Britain: English Nature (EN), Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The Environment and Heritage Service is the equivalent organisation in Northern Ireland.

A.41 As part of the response to a marine pollution incident, these organisations, through the Environment Group: 

  • provide advice on the environmental impacts of a spill to the MCA’s Counter Pollution Branch, local authorities, etc.;
  • co-ordinate the collation and provision of the best available information on wildlife interests and threats to them (including beached bird surveys, seabird colony and individual bird counts, collection of dead oiled birds, reporting of live casualties, and the collection of samples);
  • provide nature conservation advice and information to local authorities, MCA Counter Pollution Branch, MAFF/SERAD, EA/SEPA; and
  • co-ordinate the response of Non-Governmental Organisations.

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

A.42 The JNCC is the forum through which the three country nature conservation agencies – CCW, EN, and SNH – deliver their statutory responsibilities for Great Britain as a whole and internationally. These responsibilities contribute to sustaining and enriching biological diversity, enhancing geological features, and sustaining natural systems.

A.43 The JNCC’s Seabird at Sea and Marine Information Teams provide specialist advice to the country agencies and assist in monitoring and surveillance operations during major incidents. JNCC also deals with marine pollution incidents occurring outside territorial waters.

English Nature

A.44 EN, the Nature Conservancy Council for England, advises Government on nature conservation in England. It promotes, directly and through others, the conservation of England’s wildlife and natural features within the wider setting of the United Kingdom, and its international responsibilities. It selects, establishes and manages National Nature Reserves and identifies and notifies Sites of Special Scientific Interest. 

A.45 EN advises on incidents in territorial waters around England (that is, south of 55°50’N on the east coast, all of the south coast, and the west coast south of 51°20’N and between the Dee Estuary and 54°30’N). 

Countryside Council for Wales

A.46 CCW is the Government’s statutory adviser on wildlife, countryside, and maritime conservation matters in Wales. CCW advises on incidents in territorial waters around Wales.

Scottish Natural Heritage

A.47 SNH is a statutory non-departmental public body established by the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991. It is ultimately accountable to the Scottish Parliament. Its statutory aims are to secure the conservation and enhancement of Scotland’s natural heritage and to foster understanding and facilitate enjoyment of it. SNH provide advice to Government on nature conservation in Scotland.

A.48 SNH advises on incidents in territorial waters around Scotland (that is, north of 54°30’N on the west coast and north of 55°50N on the east coast).

Note: In 2006, English Nature will merge with Rural Development Service and the Countryside Agency’s Landscape, Access and Recreation division to form a new body, Natural England. This will have "all the powers of the existing bodies including awarding grants, giving advice and information, designating Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, managing National Nature Reserves, and enforcing the associated regulations." (W63.Dec05.w1)

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Role of Non-Governmental Environmental Organisations

The MCA's "National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution from Shipping and Offshore Installations" sets out in Appendix A: Roles and Responsibilities of Key Organisations the following roles for environmental NGOs within oil spill response:
Non-governmental environmental organisations

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA)

A.64 When alerted by the relevant statutory nature conservation agency during a marine pollution incident, the RSPCA or SSPCA:

  • agree the procedures for the recovery of live birds and other wildlife casualties with the relevant nature conservation agency;
  • where appropriate, supply equipment to help recovery of live casualties. The SRC technical and procurement teams may directly support this activity;
  • co-ordinate the treatment and rehabilitation of casualties;
  • provide the relevant nature conservation agency with details of the recovery, treatment and rehabilitation of live wildlife casualties; and
  • agree a protocol with the nature conservation agency for the marking and release of cleaned wildlife.

National Trust

A.65 The National Trust is a major coastal landowner in the UK and its staff

  • can be a valuable source of local expertise and knowledge.

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

A.66 The RSPB:

  • contributes to the monitoring of bird casualties through the organisation of Beached Bird Surveys;
  • establishes and maintains a network of Beached Bird Surveyors to carry out these surveys in the event of a pollution incident (subject to availability of volunteers and access to the shoreline). In Wales, it is likely that CCW will maintain a network of volunteers;
  • provides samples of Beached Bird Survey recording cards to Beached Bird Surveyors as required;
  • maintains additional supplies of briefing information and recording cards for rapid dissemination in the event of a pollution incident; 
  • ensures that all Beached Bird Surveyors receive advice on safe working on the coast. This role should take place in conjunction with the health and safety team (a sub-group of the SRC technical team);
  • co-ordinates the deployment of Beached Bird Surveyors during an emergency and ensure that all surveyors follow agreed recording procedures. In Wales, it is likely that CCW will co-ordinate the surveyors;
  • provides the relevant country nature conservation agency with the results of Beached Bird Surveys on a daily basis. This activity is probably best carried out using a database or spreadsheet; 
  • notifies the statutory nature conservation agency co-ordinator of the location of live, oiled birds (as reported by Beached Bird surveyors) and sends this information to RSPCA or SSPCA;
  • assists in providing information on birds at risk from the pollution incident.

British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)

A.67 The BTO:

  • agrees a protocol with the statutory nature conservation agencies for ringing all rehabilitated birds prior to release by appropriately licensed personnel; and
  • assesses the origins of affected birds from interpretation of ringing recovery information.

Wildlife Trusts

A.68 Wildlife Trusts are potentially useful sources of local knowledge on all environmental aspects. They:

  • provide local nature conservation information to complement that given by the statutory nature conservation agencies;
  • provide specialist help with monitoring clean up operations in sensitive areas;
  • contribute to the work of evaluation committees or inquiries that take place after a marine pollution incident.

A.69 However, the Wildlife Trusts are not animal welfare organisations and believe that responsibility for the collection of wildlife injured during an oil spill should lie with the voluntary organisations (RSPCA/SSPCA). Wildlife Trusts, however, are willing, when appropriate and if resources allow, to act as a “clearing house” for volunteers who wish to assist the RSPCA, SSPCA, or other organisations with these aspects.

World Wide Fund for Nature UK

A.70 The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) may contribute to the work of evaluation committees or inquiries that take place after a marine pollution incident.


  • The RSPCA (Scottish SPCA in Scotland, USPCA in Northern Ireland) is recognised in the MCA's National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution from Shipping and Offshore Installations as the lead organisation in charge of recovery and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife. (D60.7.w7, D134, P14.7.w30)
  • The RSPB sees their role, in summary as:
    • surveying/providing information on which birds are in the danger area (in a large oil spill trained Beached Bird Survey volunteers would be recruited to assist in survey efforts);
    • advising (through participation in the Environment Group) on how to conduct the clean-up operation with least risk to birds; and
    • directing the animal welfare organisations to the location of live oiled birds and later, if appropriate, advising on release sites.


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Wildlife Response Contingency Planning

Importance of Wildlife Response Contingency Planning

The speed of the initial oiled wildlife response following a spill is crucial to the success of the operation; oiled animals have a much higher chance of survival if caught and treated soon after oiling. (D16, D135.4.w4, D159.III.w, D160.4.w4). 

A proper wildlife response contingency plan should help to ensure an appropriate and prompt oiled wildlife response in the event of a spill, as well as ensuring that oiled wildlife response is integrated into the general oil spill response, that major strategy and policy decisions have been made in advance, and assisting in any submission of a compensation claim for reasonable expenditure during the response. (D183.w9, P14.5.w13) 

  • Lack of pre-planning is likely to result in response difficulties including a delay in response activities and reduced rate of successful rehabilitation. (P14.5.w13, P14.7.w28)
  • Integration of the oiled wildlife response into the general counter pollution activities provides the most efficient wildlife response. (P14.7.w51)
  • It is important to recognise that no plan is going to address every possible scenario, and to be ready to adapt the response to address the conditions in an individual spill situation. (P14.5.w13)
  • N.B. Where large numbers of birds are oiled and come to shore, problems may arise even if contingency plans have been developed. (D214.2.w2, D214.4.w4)

The International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) document "A Guide to Oiled Wildlife Response Planning - IPIECA Report Series Volume 13" (full text available) notes the following:

The importance of integrated plans:

It is imperative that wildlife response plans should be fully integrated into the wider oil spill response plans. This is the only way to ensure: 

  • a recognized position for the wildlife operation in the overall response;
  • the fast access to other resources and their efficient use;
  • short lines of communication between key managers; and
  • the effective sharing of up-to-date information.

(D183.w9 - Full text available)

In the UK, the RSPCA (SSPCA in Scotland) is recognised in the MCA's National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution from Shipping and Offshore Installations for advice and liaison regarding any wildlife rescue operations and is designated as the responsible agency for live oiled animals in most local and regional plans. Advantages of this recognition are that only experienced bird rescue teams are involved, increased liaison, better flow of information and possibly better assistance from authorities such as the Coastguard and statutory nature conservation organisations. It is also helpful in assessment of insurance claims and in post spill investigations and de-briefs. (P14.7.w30)

The benefits of a pre-spill plan:

A pre-spill plan will:
  • Quickly bring all relevant parties up to speed and ensure that their respective responsibilities are pre-determined and clear.
  • Define the objectives of the wildlife response and the agreed way in which oiled animals shall be dealt with.
  • Integrate the wildlife response into an overall spill response, so that access to logistic resources is best guaranteed.
  • Provide clear understanding of the ‘best practices’ and protocols.
  • Be a reaffirmation of local, national and international environmental priorities.
  • Avoid discussion on strategy, techniques and policy, so that responsible officers will be able to quickly and fully concentrate on developing tactics.
  • Provide a means by which the actual impact of the incident on wildlife populations can be determined.
  • Inform any observers and any other interested parties which are not part of the response structure, on underlying strategy and rationale so that they will understand the tactics.
  • Improve public and media understanding of the industry’s and government’s efforts to be a positive force in the protection of the environment.
  • Help submit a compensation claim for reasonable expenditure, preferably as part of a centrally led operation.
  • Provide a means whereby lessons learned can be incorporated into modifications of the plan.

(D183.w9 - Full text available)

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Key Functions and Features of the Oiled Wildlife Response

Key functions of the oiled wildlife response which must be considered in contingency planning:
  • Overall coordination, including monitoring and control, overview, planning operations, report and evaluation and liaison. (D183.w9)
    • Liaison is required with other parts of the general oil spill response, external groups, P&I clubs. (D60.2.w2, D183.w9)
  • Wildlife reconnaissance (for information on the population at risk, and what search and collection may be required). (D160.1.w1)
    • Note: Expert ornithologists who can identify bird species and recognise normal and abnormal behaviour should be identified. (V.w73)
  • Hazing, as appropriate. (B363.App1.w14, D160.1.w1)
  • Pro-active capture, as appropriate. (B363.App1.w14)
  • Search and collection of live oiled animals, including remote site stabilisation. (B363.App1.w14, D60.2.w2, D133.App1b.w10, D160.1.w1, D183.w9)
  • Transportation of oiled animals to treatment centres. (B363.App1.w14, D183.w9)
  • Collection of oiled carcasses. (D160.1.w1, D183.w9)
  • Assessment of dead animals, labelling and registration of carcasses, storage, necropsy and analysis. (D183.w9)
  • Wildlife rehabilitation. (D60.2.w2, D133.App1b.w10, D160.1.w1)
    • For large spills this may be divided into sections, e.g. intake, washing etc., and may divided taxonomically (e.g. bird response separate from mammal response). (B363.App1.w14, D183.w9)
  • Animal care protocols, veterinary care protocols, euthanasia guidelines. (D183.w9)
  • Collection of samples, as required.(D160.1.w1
  • Release of rehabilitated wildlife. (B363.App1.w14)
  • Post-release monitoring. (B363.App1.w14)
  • Identification and maintenance of oiled wildlife response facilities/equipment. (D133.App1b.w10), D160.1.w1)
  • Volunteer coordination. (D60.2.w2, D133.App1b.w10)
  • Logistics: planning and transport of goods, stocks and storage, suppliers. (D60.2.w2, D133.App1b.w10, D183.w9)
  • Administration: (D133.App1b.w10)
    • Finances and legal matters, including funding, financial administration, claim preparation. (D183.w9)
    • Data management, including collection of data, analysis of data, impact assessment, provision of data to the media, institutions etc. (D183.w9)
  • Human resources:
    • Health and safety. (D183.w9)
    • Volunteers (D183.w9)
    • Insurance. (D183.w9)
    • Travel and subsistence. (D183.w9)
  • Waste management: treatment of waste water, disposal of solid waste and carcasses. (D60.2.w2, D182.w2, D183.w9)
  • Public relations/Publicity (communication with the media and public). (D183.w9)

Key features of an effective oiled wildlife response:

l. Responders working safely.
2. Joint primary aims of the response to mitigate the impacts on wildlife welfare and conservation values threatened or impacted by the oil spill event.
3. Systematic objective data collection to facilitate impact studies where legislative and compensation regimes mandate such assessments.
4. Responsible utilization of resources, and auditable documentation of costs.
5. Cooperative and collaborative inclusion of wildlife and environmental stakeholders in planning and operations.
6. Utilization of widely accepted protocols and practices.
7. Minimization of the environmental impact of the wildlife response activities.
8. Adherence to legal permitting requirements for wildlife interactions, including capture, holding, marking and release of wildlife.
9. Wildlife response integrated into wider oil spill response effort.

(D183.w2 - Full text available)


  • Before collecting oiled wildlife for cleaning and rehabilitation it should be considered whether there are the necessary resources available - facilities, supplies, personnel and expertise - to carry out the cleaning, care and rehabilitation of the animals. (D60.6.w6)
  • In remote, inaccessible areas where implementation of live animal rescue is impossible, humane killing may be a preferred option. (D60.6.w6)
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Key Issues in Wildlife Response Contingency Planning

"Contingency planning should include the development of a plan to mount an oiled wildlife response, training of staff and identification and/or acquisition of resources." (B363.Intro.w21)

Key issues in developing a plan include:

  • Ownership. It is essential that a single organisation has "ownership" of the plan, being accountable for its establishment and maintenance. (D183.w9)
    • If the wildlife response plan is "owned" by the party responsible for general oil spill response plan, this is likely to maximise integration into the wider oil spill response and effective deployment of the plan in the face of an oil spill incident. (D183.w9)
    • The "owner" of the plan may not necessarily be the same organisation that initiated development of the plan. (D183.w9)
  • Participation. It is important to recognise the range of skills and services required for successful oiled wildlife response, and to ensure that all appropriate parties (e.g. governmental authorities, industry, NGOs, professional oiled wildlife responders, academic institutions, voluntary groups) participate in the planning process. (D183.w9) It is essential to include:
    • Agencies with legal responsibilities for the protection and treatment of wild animals (N.B. In many countries there are legal restrictions on the collection and treatment of wild animals);
    • Nationally licensed experts in wildlife response;
    • Stakeholders such as conservationists, animal welfare organisations and local wildlife rehabilitators;
    • Local wildlife groups/individuals, local useful contacts (e.g. ornithologists, Women's Institute, First Aid organisations).

    (D60.2.w2, D60.App2.w11, D183.w9)

    • Consultation and collaboration with those responsible for overall oil spill management is required. (B363.Intro.w21)
    • A good relationship between those involved in the hands-on oiled wildlife response and the governmental agencies which need to be involved in an oil spill incident is essential if necessary decisions are to be made in a timely manner. (P14.5.w13)
  • "Tiered response". As for other facets of oil spill response planning, the wildlife response plan may be based on the tiered response model, allowing for a Tier 1 response, which one or more local rehabilitation centres can handle, a Tier 2 response, which would be within the ability of national centres to handle, and a Tier 3 response, which would require international assistance. (D183.w9)
  • Organisation of the response. It is preferable for the oiled wildlife response operation to be embedded within the general Incident Command System. Within the oiled wildlife response, the required tasks must be broken down into defined sections, with an individual or group identified to be responsible for each task or set of tasks (e.g. initial reconnaissance, hazing, collection and transportation of live animals, wildlife treatment and care, logistics, public relations, human resources management, waste management). (D183.w9)
  • Selection of responsible personnel. This includes key officers from appropriate statutory bodies, as well as oiled wildlife responders.
    • Statutory responsibility to fulfill certain tasks in oiled wildlife response will belong to certain departments, institutions or organisations. It is preferable that, from such bodies, individuals are identified and named in the plan, together with appropriate contact information, to ensure prompt notification. (D183.w9)
    • Trained wildlife responders, preferably local experts in the care of oiled wildlife, should undertake the hands-on care and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife. Key personnel should be trained to internationally accepted standards of oiled wildlife response. If there are no suitably trained personnel available locally or nationally, then international experts are required. (D183.w9)
  • Funding and compensation. Effective oiled wildlife response requires considerable resources and therefore appropriate funding. It is preferable for an emergency budget to be agreed in advance as part of the planning process, to be made available when the plan is activated, to cover an initial period (e.g. two weeks), by agreement of the plan owners and, if a different body, the funders. During the initial period it will then be necessary to consider other sources of funding. (D183.w9)
    • Claim procedures for the expenses of oiled wildlife response will vary depending on a number of factors such as the country in which the spill occurs and whether it is from an oil tanker, other ship, unknown source etc. (D183.w9, D224)
    • The chances of a claim being approved are increased if the response is well set up, centrally coordinated and integrated with the overall spill response, carried out in a professional manner, effective and cost-effective, and well documented. (D183.w9)
    • From the outset there should be liaison with any insurers and with the authorities responsible for the general spill clean up response. A claim may be submitted as part of a central oil spill response claim if it has been centrally led and administered. (D183.w9)
  • Training. 
    • Key officers with roles in oiled wildlife response should participate in oil spill training sessions/response exercises. (D183.w9)
    • Key wildlife rehabilitators also should participate in oil spill training sessions/response exercises, and preferably should be given both opportunity and encouragement to complete an oil spill management training course and to train with professional oiled wildlife responders. (D183.w9)
    • Training exercises in the UK should include awareness of the three response units - (Shoreline Response centre, Marine Response Centre and Salvage Control Unit), particularly the Shoreline Response Centre as this is the response unit wildlife response is most likely to be involved with. See: Oil Spill Teamwork and Command Structure - In the UK
    • Training in the UK should include awareness of the possible role of wildlife responders in relation to the Environment Group and the beachmasters. See: Oil Spill Teamwork and Command Structure - Environment Group
  • Exercises. Simulation exercises are very useful to test the contingency plan and to train personnel in their roles. (D183.w9)
    • Simulation exercises should ensure that the plan and procedures set out in the plan are tested and that those involved are familiar with the plan, allow development of a team spirit, and ensure that any deficiencies in the plan are detected and can be modified before the plan is required to function in a real incident. (D183.w9)
    • Ideally, simulation exercises for oiled wildlife response should take place as part of a wider oil spill response exercise. (D183.w9)
  • Review. As with other contingency plans, periodic maintenance and review is required. All holders of the plan need to be told about any updates. (D183.w9)
    • Contact details must be updated as required. (D183.w9)
    • Lists of equipment need to be updated periodically. (D183.w9)
    • Major revisions may be made following the experiences of either training exercises or actual spill incidents. 
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Sections of the Wildlife Response Contingency Plan

An oiled wildlife response plan can be divided into three key sections similar to those of a general oil spill response plan - strategy, operations and data. (D183.w9)

1. Strategy section

  • This section contains all the advance planning information. It needs to link to, and avoid conflict with, other oil spill plans, should be consistent with the national oil spill response policy, and comply with local, national (and possibly international) plans. (D183.w9)
  • Risk assessment and development of scenarios is included in this section, as is data collection regarding species which are likely to be oiled or are particularly vulnerable to oil. Scenarios should consider the likely type(s) of oil spill accident in the area, the type and quantity of oil likely to be spilled, the likely behaviour of that oil depending on weather conditions and the possible impacts of the spilled oil. (D183.w9)
    • Note that while oiled seabirds are generally found December to March (in the UK), inland spills affecting wildlife may occur at any time of the year. (D28)
  • Data from risk assessment and scenarios can be used to set up the response policy and objectives, including decisions regarding the extent to which rehabilitation is to be attempted and criteria for euthanasia. Other required facets include a plan for waste management and disposal, required equipment and services, how these can be acquired (and how long this will take) etc. (D183.w9)
  • Potential suppliers of equipment and consumables (e.g. fish, veterinary supplies) should be identified. (D60.7.w7, D214.2.w2)
  • Consideration should be given to identifying means of providing for the needs of personnel during the spill, e.g. accommodation for personnel brought in to the response area, food for volunteers. (D60.7.w7)

Strategy section

Introduction and scope

  • Authorities and responsibilities, coordinating committee
  • Statutory requirements (wildlife handling permits, rehabilitation permits, protected species, national and international transport of wildlife, waste management)
  • Geographical limits of the plan
  • Relevant administrative borders
  • Interface with other plans/representation at joint control centres

Risk assessment

  • Identification of activities and risks (tanker traffic, bad weather)
  • Types of oil likely to be spilled
  • Vulnerable species and habitats, seasonality
  • Species abundance and their susceptibility to oiling, predominant species at risk
  • Effects of oil on wildlife at risk
  • Development of oiled wildlife scenarios
  • Priority species for protection and/or rehabilitation
  • Special local considerations

Spill response strategy

  • Philosophy and objectives
  • Limiting and averse conditions, tiered response
  • Strategy for health and safety
  • Strategy for preventing oil reaching wildlife and wildlife getting oiled
  • Strategy for monitoring oiled wildlife (live and dead) at sea
  • Strategy for oiled wildlife stranded alive (including triage)
  • Strategy for oiled wildlife stranded dead
  • Strategy for oiled waste (solid and wash water) storage and disposal


(D183.w9 - Full text available)


Equipment, supplies and services

  • Temporary facility equipment
  • Veterinary equipment
  • Catching and collection equipment
  • IT, office and communication equipment
  • Inspection, maintenance and testing

Management, manpower and training

  • Relationship with Unified/Incident Command System
  • Wildlife response manager and supporting functional units
  • Incident organization chart
  • National (licensed) oiled wildlife responders
  • International oiled wildlife responders and advisors
  • Manpower availability (on-site, on-call)
  • Availability of additional labour (volunteers)
  • Training/safety schedules and drill/exercise programme

Communications and control

  • Wildlife Unit, Unified/Incident Command System
  • Permanent and temporal facilities
  • Field team communication equipment
  • Reports, manuals, maps, charts and incident logs (record keeping)
  • Website development

Activation, de-activation

Exercise, training, plan revision


  • Financial control
  • Claim

2. Operations section 

  • This section contains the essential information for carrying out the response, including what information must be collected at the time of the oil spill incident to allow accurate evaluation of the incident, and the procedure required to evaluate the incident. (D183.w9)
  • It is essential that procedures are in place to ensure that wildlife responders are notified of the spill, by the authorities or industry, so that the site can be reached promptly. (D183.w9)
  • Arrangements for a liaison between the wildlife response and the overall oil spill response should be included in both general and wildlife contingency plans. (D183.w9)
Operations section

Initial procedures

  • Reporting incident, preliminary estimate of response Tier
  • Notifying key team members and authorities
  • Establishing and staffing control room
  • Collecting information (oil type, location of oil, weather forecast, oiled species at sea, oiled species on beach)
  • Identify species immediately at risk
  • Estimate expected size of wildlife incident based on place, season of spill

Operations planning and mobilization procedures

  • Assembling full response team
  • Identifying immediate response priorities
  • Mobilizing immediate response
  • Identify/establish wildlife facility
  • Preparing initial press statement
  • Planning medium-term operations (24-, 48- and 72 hour)
  • Deciding to escalate response to higher Tier
  • Mobilizing, or placing on standby, resources required
  • Establish beach search and collection teams, communication and transport

(D183.w9 - Full text available)

  • Control of operations
    Establishing a management team with experts and advisors
  • Updating information (weather forecasts, aerial surveillance, beach reports)
  • Reviewing and planning operations
  • Obtaining additional equipment, supplies and manpower
  • Preparing daily incident log and management reports
  • Preparing operations accounting and financing reports
  • Preparing releases for public and press conferences
  • Briefing local and government officials

Termination of operations

  • Deciding critical levels of daily animal stranding below which search and collection will be terminated
  • Standing down equipment, cleaning, maintaining, replacing
  • Preparing formal detailed report
  • Reviewing plans and procedures from lessons learned

2. Data section

  • This section includes all the background information required for development and utilisation of the Strategy and Operations sections, such as maps of the area covered by the plan, lists of the species likely to be oiled, including their requirements for rehabilitation facilities, lists of equipment, available facilities etc., data sheets and protocols. (D183.w9)
  • Maps should indicate information such as access points to areas which might be oiled, types of shoreline and protected areas where access may be restricted, as well as water intakes, fisheries and temporary storage sites for oiled waste. (D60.5.w5)
  • This section could also indicate areas where assessment of wildlife populations oiled or at risk may be focused. (D60.6.w6)
Data section


  • Coastal facilities, access roads, hotels, etc.
  • Species distribution maps/atlases, seasonality
  • Risk locations and probable fate of oil
  • Shoreline types and zones for search and collection strategies
  • Area plans (in case of remote, complicated or vulnerable sites)


  • Vulnerable species and their susceptibility to oiling, natural history, behaviour in captivity, expected rehabilitation success, most common diseases
  • Equipment for shoreline search and collection: PPE, nets and other tools, plastic bags, labels, communication equipment (including manufacturer/supplier, type, size, location, transport, contact, delivery time, cost and conditions)
  • Facilities: permanent rehabilitation centres, university labs, stock warehouses
  • Support equipment: communications, catering, housing, transport, field sanitation, shelter, freezers and freeze houses, boat hire operators (including availability, contact, cost and conditions)
  • Contact details for organizations and identified emergency officers

(D183.w9 - Full text available)

  • Relevant organization and their field(s) of responsibility: local and national government, animal welfare organizations, university departments, wildlife rehabilitation centres, etc. (including name contact person, rank and responsibility, address, telephone, fax, telex)
  • Sources of manpower: veterinary doctors and assistants, animal nurses, necropsy analysts, local authorities, caterers, security firms, volunteers (including availability, numbers, skills, contact, cost and conditions)
  • Experts and advisors: professional oiled wildlife response teams, safety, (including availability, contact, cost and conditions)
  • Checklists: staffing, veterinary kits, facility requirements, search and collection team kits, customs, waste management, safety briefings, etc.)
  • Checklists for set up functional units (logistics, administration, finance, planning, etc.)
  • Triage criteria


  • Wildlife handling instruction sheets
  • Animal care and rehabilitation protocols
  • Necropsy handbooks
  • Billboards to inform public

N.B. the plan should include:

  • A transport plan, setting out guidelines for appropriate containers, species space requirements, numbers of each species which may be transported per container, required ventilation and temperature control, pre-transport treatment protocol, any required legal paperwork. (D183.w6)
  • A triage strategy, agreed by all stakeholders. (D183.w6)
  • Prioritization of areas for protection:
    • Response plans need to decide on priority areas for protection, based on the desirability of protection of particular resources and the practicality of protecting the areas. (D60.2.w2)
    • There may be conflicts between requirements for protection of different resource types such as fishing areas, amenity areas and areas important as wildlife habitats. (D60.2.w2)
    • Sensitive areas of all types (Ramsar sites, SSSIs etc.) should be located on a map; environmental sensitivity maps assist in streamlining decision making. (D60.2.w2)
    • The importance of different areas may vary seasonally, e.g. breeding sites and areas important during migration. (D60.2.w2)
    • Species biodiversity, rarity, vulnerability to oil spill (e.g. based on time to recover after oiling) and societal values (commercial, recreational, ecological and aesthetic) may all be considered. (D60.2.w2)
    • Plans should have provisions for alterations of protection priorities for response if priority resources are impacted by oil before the plan can be implemented. (D60.2.w2)
  • Waste disposal considerations: identification of national legislation and authorities responsible for waste management, together with procedures to ensure that any necessary licences and permits for waste disposal will be granted speedily. (D183.w7)
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Authors & Referees

Authors Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referee Steve Benn (V.w80); Dr Virginia Pierce (V.w73)

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