Bird interactions with offshore oil and gas platforms: Review of impacts and monitoring techniques.
Thousands of oil and gas platforms are currently operating in offshore waters globally, and this industry is expected to expand in coming decades. Although the potential environmental impacts of offshore oil and gas activities are widely recognized, there is limited understanding of their impacts on migratory and resident birds. A literature review identified 24 studies and reports of bird-platform interactions, most being qualitative and half having been peer-reviewed. The most frequently observed effect, for seabirds and landbirds, is attraction and sometimes collisions associated with lights and flares; episodic events have caused the deaths of hundreds or even thousands of birds. Though typically unpredictable, anecdotally, it is known that poor weather, such as fog, precipitation and low cloud cover, can exacerbate the effect of nocturnal attraction to lights, especially when coincidental with bird migrations. Other effects include provision of foraging and roosting opportunities, increased exposure to oil and hazardous environments, increased exposure to predators, or repulsion from feeding sites. Current approaches to monitoring birds at offshore platforms have focused on observer-based methods which can offer species-level bird identification, quantify seasonal patterns of relative abundance and distribution, and document avian mortality events and underlying factors. Observer-based monitoring is time-intensive, limited in spatial and temporal coverage, and suffers without clear protocols and when not conducted by trained, independent observers. These difficulties are exacerbated because deleterious bird-platform interaction is episodic and likely requires the coincidence of multiple factors (e.g., darkness, cloud, fog, rain conditions, occurrence of birds in vicinity). Collectively, these considerations suggest a need to implement supplemental systems for monitoring bird activities around offshore platforms. Instrument-based approaches, such as radar, cameras, acoustic recordings, and telemetry, hold promise for continuous monitoring. Recommendations are provided for a rigorous and comprehensive monitoring approach within an adaptive management framework.