Letters to the Editor

Working to keep Penn Cove healthy

The MV Deep Sea is gone from Penn Cove but not forgotten.

Whidbey Audubon Society closely followed the incident since the beginning. We had members out on the beaches each day, monitoring for fuel leaks and impacted wildlife.

Our chapter’s first priority was for the safety of the responders who extinguished the boat fire and for the workers who plugged the leaks. The private contractors and Washington Department of Ecology worked diligently and efficiently to contain the spill and remove the threat.

Whidbey Audubon remains vigilant for signs the fuel and other toxic elements have been passed up the food chain. Penn Cove hosts numerous bird and mammal species vulnerable to contamination. Our chief concern is for the breeding colonies of Pigeon Guillemots, seabirds related to puffins, that nest in burrows in the bluffs around the cove. Their nesting success rate this summer will be monitored and compared to the results from our ongoing Pigeon Guillemot Breeding Survey, now in its 9th year.

It’s not Whidbey Audubon Society’s responsibility to assess blame or point fingers. We are advocating for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to do a complete Natural Resources Damage Assessment that would include surveying the health of small fish and, of course, the cove’s famous mussels.

Our chapter plans to encourage development of an improved system of tracking and removal of derelict vessels. We’ll also be in contact with Audubon chapters across the state to help identify potential spill hazards in salt and fresh water, and to give them the benefit of our knowledge attained from this incident.

All of us are important stakeholders in Penn Cove: the hospitality industry in Coupeville, Penn Cove Shellfish and their customers, the casual beachcomber, and those of us who enjoy the sight of water birds and harbor seals. Together, we can keep the cove scenic and healthy.

Steve Ellis, president

Whidbey Audubon Society

 

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