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JAPAN: Dead Crow Story Smells Fishy

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    Posted: March 05 2006 at 5:58pm

Authorities puzzled by dead birds found in oil on Hokkaido
shores+(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)

SAPPORO, March 2_(Kyodo) _ Hundreds of dead birds have recently been
found in massive amounts of oil on the shores of Hokkaido, including
part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, and local authorities are trying hard
to find out where they came from and what killed them.

Some scientists and environment protection groups suspect a link
between the death of the birds -- some 770 as of Thursday -- and an oil
spill accident that occurred in mid-December in Sakhalin, but local
governments on Japan's northernmost main island have yet to determine
the cause.

According to local government officials, they first found a number of dead
birds covered with oil on the coast in Abashiri, northeastern Hokkaido, in
late December.

After drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk started to melt and move southward
earlier this year, more cases were found along the a 40-kilometer stretch
of the coastline from the central part of the Shiretoko Peninsula to the
nearby town of Shari, the officials said.

Many of the dead birds had been badly damaged and appeared to have
died several days before being found. They were mostly crows and
sparrows, namely thick-billed murre, crested auklet and the endangered
cassin's auklet, they said.

Some dead birds were found in an area on the Shiretoko Peninsula which
has been added to the World Heritage list, they said.

The Hokkaido prefectural government said about 10 cubic meters of
kerosene leaked into the sea after the accident in northern Sakhalin.

Yasushi Fukamachi, an expert on marine physics at Hokkaido University,
said the oil slick could have made its way to the northeastern Hokkaido
coast along with drift ice as the sea current from Sakhalin to Hokkaido
moves quickly in wintertime.

But an official of the local government was
skeptical,saying, "There is a low possibility that several hundred birds or
more would be damaged with the amount of oil" that was leaked in the
Sakhalin accident.

FoE Japan, a Tokyo-based international nongovernmental organization
dealing with environmental issues, said Japanese authorities should
promptly compare constituents of the oil found on the dead birds with
those of the Sakhalin kerosene, although the group did not rule out other
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