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Bird hunting banned in 2 wildlife areas
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Staff Writer
SALEM -- Authorities have closed two wildlife areas in the county to waterfowl hunting to prevent exposing birds to the remnants of a potentially 473,000-gallon crude oil spill near Paulsboro last month.

On Monday, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection closed off the 2,500-acre Salem River Wildlife Management Area to such hunting, and the federal government followed suit on Tuesday with the sprawling Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

Officials said the bans would prevent hunters from driving birds, many in the midst of winter migration, from inland areas to oil-contaminated portions of the Delaware River. The spill on Nov. 26 from the tanker, Athos I, has affected a 120-mile stretch of the waterway including Salem County's shoreline.

An earlier advisory from state and federal agencies asking hunters to avoid the river and connecting tributaries here remains in affect.

The closings come less than a week after the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife lifted their Dec. 1 advisory against waterfowl hunting in riverfront areas of that state.

"We've gotten more oil on our side than other states have on their sides," said Martin McHugh, director of DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife. He blamed wind and other weather conditions for New Jersey's share of the damage.

"Here is an opportunity to take a constructive approach on a piece of property we own," he said of the closing at the Salem River Wildlife Management Area.

The site is located on the southern edge of Mannington Meadows. Many have feared that the oil would travel into county tributaries and damage marsh areas like the meadows.

McHugh said that oil has been sighted at the mouth of the meadows. Authorities are using protective boom on the Salem River leading into the area.

Nearby Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is mostly clean, according to Linda Chorba Ziemba, a biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

She said sheen has been sighted along the refuge's coastline, but it has not come inland to its tidal marsh areas. The key is to keep waterfowl there away from the river, she said.

Waterfowl that do come in contact with oil get the mucky black substance stuck on their belly feathers and often ingest it while trying to remove it with their beaks, according to Ziemba.

The oil also reduces a bird's buoyancy and ebbs the insulation that its feathers provide from the cold.

The spill's impact on wildlife will be among several issues slated for discussion at a special town meeting this Thursday in West Deptford from 6 to 8 p.m. at the RiverWinds Community Center at 1000 RiverWinds Drive.

DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell and Third District legislators Sen. Stephen Sweeney and Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Douglas Fisher will host the meeting that will tackle the details of the spill, the ongoing cleanup and the expected long-term effects. The meeting will include a question and answer period.

Beginning at 4 p.m. at the center, residents can also talk directly to personnel from agencies leading the cleanup effort. Representatives from the Greece-based shipping company considered to be the responsible party in the spill for now, will also be present to address questions about damage claims.

Copyright 2004 All Rights Reserved.

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