Fouling everything

Another disaster:

There’s never a good time for an oil spill. But the most recent ones — in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida last month, and then this past weekend, in the ocean off Huntington Beach, Calif. — have come right in the heart of the fall migration of hundreds of millions of birds.

These journeys are perilous, even in the best of times. Flying thousands of miles requires vast amounts of food and protected habitats. But more and more of the wetlands, marshes, forests and fields needed to support migrating birds have been filled in, cut down and paved over. As a result, the remaining refuges are few and far between, overcrowded and vulnerable to even slight disruptions.

The Southern California spill is the worst sort of disruption. It tarred beaches and fouled a rare, fragile coastal wetland. And it happened at the peak of fall migration, in a spot especially important to the Pacific Flyway.

Southern California’s beaches and remnant marshes offer sanctuary for thousands of migrating birds, including threatened and endangered species. Oil from the spill penetrated these marshes before adequate protective barriers could be put in place, raising the prospect of long-term damage. Birds are already dying.

Oh look, a cruise ship.

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