Experts from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences warned today about the potential impact of a weekend oil spill in Texas on nesting migratory shorebirds.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, a collision between a barge and a ship near Galveston Bay caused approximately 168,000 gallons of oil to spill into the water.

“There is no good time for an oil spill, but this is a particularly bad time because resident shorebirds like oystercatchers are already nesting, and migratory shorebirds are currently using Galveston Bay during northward migration,” said Manomet scientist Shiloh Schulte, who also serves as the coordinator of the American Oystercatcher Working Group. “Galveston Bay has the highest concentration of nesting American Oystercatchers in Texas.”                                                                         
The Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary in Galveston Bay is a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site. The 1,000-acre sanctuary is owned by the Houston Audubon Society and provides stopover and wintering habitat for more than 100,000 shorebirds. Schulte and other Manomet scientists witnessed firsthand the impact of oil on nesting and migratory bird populations after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Manomet worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to assess the impact of the oil on shorebirds.

The Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, one of Manomet’s partners in the area, has an ongoing study to look at oystercatcher populations in Texas.

They are working to “understand threats to nesting oystercatchers and develop a long-term stewardship program,” Schulte said.

Photo Credit: Manomet Shorebird Conservation Specialist Brad Winn