J Freire, L Fernández & R Muiño (2005). Role of the Spanish scientific community in the initial assessment and management of the environmental damages caused by the Prestige oil spill. Marine Policy (in press, May 2005). [pdf]
The role of the Spanish scientific community in the initial assessment of the environmental and socioeconomic damages caused by the Prestige oil spill is analyzed. A discussion of the reasons for the failures in the response of the scientific community is presented, highlighting that despite the existence of adequate human capital and infrastructures, failures were related to the weakness of the structures and organisational capacity of the scientific institutions and the public administration. Some developments for an effective response to future catastrophes are proposed: 1) oceanographic and ecological models, including scientific and local knowledge; 2) management systems for scientific information; 3) organisational and incentive systems to allow the creation of temporary, large and well-organised multidisciplinary teams; 4) protocols for rapid, “real-time”, damage assessments; and 5) participation of different social groups (NGOs, fishers’ organisations, aquaculture industry or volunteer groups) in plans for the assessment and management of crises.