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Massive Spill Will Have Long-Term Effect On Wildlife

July 17, 1988

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ A spill of more than 600,000 gallons of crude oil in the harbor has killed a small number crabs, birds and other wildlife, officials said.

″The effect of the spill on the wildlife isn’t that great because it happened in the harbor,″ said Coast Guard Lt. Tom Blinkinsop. ″There’s not that many species of wildlife there.″

A tanker carrying crude oil from Scotland rammed a refinery dock Wednesday, opening a gash that allowed 15,350 barrels of oil, or 644,700 gallons, to gush into the ship channel. The spill closed the port for 56 hours.

Volunteers sounded a propane cannon and air horns Saturday to scare birds away from the oily marsh near the dock.

″I’ve found quite a few blue crabs, fiddler crabs and one hermit crab dead in the marshy area,″ Larry Gamble, environmental contaminant specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Saturday.

In addition, he said at least two birds and an opossum died as a result of the spill.

″There have probably been more than two birds killed, because when birds are injured, they’re vulnerable to prey and so they hide and we might not have found them yet,″ Gamble said.

In the long term, ″there will be a reduction in food sources, such as plankton, needed by such organisms as shrimp and crabs,″ he said.

Chip Volz, district manager for the Texas Water Commission, said no dead fish have been spotted. Fish were not affected because a southeasterly wind carried the oil immediately to the north shore of the harbor, he said.

″The fish had other places they could go in the harbor,″ he said. ″Fish have a kind of avoidance factor in their movement.″

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