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Oiled bird discovered in North Sea as Shell battles to stem leak

The first oiled bird has been recorded in the North Sea following the worst oil spill in the area for more than a decade.

It is understood the bird was spotted from a monitoring boat positioned in the area of the leak, around 112 miles off the coast of Aberdeen, and had picked up some oil on its wings.

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Environmentalists hope the remote location of the slick, around 20 miles in length, will mean few birds will meet it.

Shell confirmed yesterday that up to 660 tones of oil could still be in the flowline to the Gannet platform that sprung a leak last Wednesday. About 218 tonnes, the equivalent of 1300 barrels, had already spilled from the pipe.

Rock mattresses will stabilise the pipeline after buoyancy was detected following depressurisation brought about by the leak.

Shell is considering “containment” of the oil, a tactic used after the Gulf of Mexico spill, which is leaking in an “awkward” position surrounded by marine growth.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Environment Secretary, said: “I have spoken with both Shell’s senior management and the UK Government’s offshore incident representative Hugh Shaw over the past 24 hours and I stressed the importance of clear communication on the operation and the expectation for complete openness.”

Mr Lochhead said one oiled bird had been spotted but there is “no evidence” of any significant environmental impact. He also said fisheries in the area are not expected to be affected.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of wildlife charity WWF Scotland, said: “What the birds do is clean out their own feathers, ingest the oil and it poisons them.

“However, it is a remote area and we are lucky that very few birds come through there. If it was nearer the shore, it could be a disaster. One hundred miles off shore and it is a bad thing, but it is not a disaster.”

“The big oil companies have had an easy ride because of their importance to the Scottish economy but our politicians are now giving them clear signals they have gone too far in their lack of respect for the Scottish public and media.”

The leak was discovered last Wednesday but only made public on Friday, a day after the flow was brought “under control”.

But it emerged on Tuesday a secondary leak was spilling oil into the sea.

Shell’s technical director Glen Cayley said: “We are making good progress in stopping the leakage from the flow line to the Gannet platform. The flow rate currently stands at less than one barrel a day.”

“I must stress how much we regret this incident, that the situation is under control and we are working towards a swift solution.

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