The scale of the environmental disaster in the Black and Azov seas became apparent yesterday when hundreds of dying birds, covered in oil, were washed up close to where a Russian tanker broke up on Sunday in heavy seas. Mile-long oil slicks were spotted in the narrow Kerch Strait, where the tanker carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil split apart. At least four other ships sank in the storm, with other battered vessels stranded on the shoreline.News reports give two separate figures for the amount of oil released: 1,300 tons (government sources) and 2,000 tons (Greenpeace). Depending on density, 1,000 tons of fuel oil converts to about 270,000 to 300,000 gallons. So the effects of the Kerch Strait spill may be far worse than that in California.
Birds seeking shelter on the coast between Ukraine and Russia were covered in a treacly mixture of oil and seaweed - the first evidence of what one Russian official called an "environmental disaster". Hundreds of dead fish were washed up.
BirdLife has more on the birds affected by the spill:
Thousands of birds and fish have been killed as oil spills from a stricken tanker in the northern Black Sea. At least 30,000 birds have died, and thousands more are covered in oil and face death in the coming days. The main species reported to be affected are Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Common Coot Fulica atra, Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus and Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. So far, 50km of Russian coastline is affected by the oil spills. ...
Two Important Bird Areas (IBAs), nearby, the Kiziltash Bay and the Tamanski and Dinskiy Bays, are under threat. Both are designated primarily for migrating and wintering birds. Up to 50,000 migratory waterfowl and other birds are known to use the sites during migration. Among these are Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla.