Ducks decimated by oil spill 21 years ago make comeback

Common scoters were the worst casualties of the disaster Credit: Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales says a species of duck decimated by one of the worst oil spills in shipping history more than 20 years ago is making a 'remarkable' recovery and has more than tripled its pre-spill population.

Common scoters were the worst casualties when the Sea Empress tanker spilled 72,000 tonnes of crude oil and hundreds of tonnes of fuel after it ran aground off the Pembrokeshire coast, near Milford Haven in February 1996.

Of a population of up to 10,000 around 1,700 were washed up on to the shore dead.

But surveys for Natural Resources Wales (NRW) show numbers had recovered to around 17,000 by 2003 and had more than doubled to 36,000 last winter in the Carmarthen Bay Special Protection Area (SPA).

An aerial view of Common Scooters Credit: Natural Resources Wales

The figures have been released as NRW provides evidence to the Welsh National Assembly's Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee's inquiry into the management of marine protected areas.

Surveys were carried out in December 2016 and February 2017 using thousands of ultra-high resolution aerial photographs.

Carmarthen Bay SPA was the first fully marine SPA in the UK and was created in 2003 purely for wintering common scoter.