TOKYO (Reuter) - Japanese environment officials appealed on Tuesday for volunteers to clean up bird sanctuaries smeared with oil leaking from a sunken Russian tanker. Environment Agency spokesman Tomo Mizutani said the seagull-like birds migrate only to Japan in the northern hemisphere, arriving on the 23-hectare (58-acre) island in February after spending the winter at feeding grounds in southern Asia. Forecasts of bad weather added new urgency on Tuesday to efforts to clean up a 450-km (285-mile) stretch of coast on the Sea of Japan, about 320 km (200 miles) west of Tokyo.
The 13,157-tonne Nakhodka, a 26-year-old tanker carrying 19,000 tonnes (133,000 barrels) of heavy fuel oil from China to Russia, broke in two during stormy weather in early January, spilling much of its cargo and polluting rich fishing grounds and tourist beaches. The 31-man crew of the tanker was rescued, but the captain is missing and presumed dead. The bow of the tanker, which has so far caused the most pollution, washed up on a rocky beach in the centre of the affected area a week ago. The oil slick task force said it would drill holes in the beached bow section to drain off oil still in unruptured tanks. More than 40 patrol boats, seven helicopters, three planes and thousands of workers are involved in the cleanup of one of Japan`s worst-ever oil spills. A Maritime Safety Agency official said new slicks and solid clumps of oil were washing up along a ring of oil fences erected to protect 15 nuclear reactors scattered around Wakasa Bay, the world`s greatest concentration of nuclear power plants. A spokesman for Kansai Electric Co, which has 11 reactors in the bay region, said the fences had so far succeeded in keeping oil from intake pipes which provide vital cooling water to the reactors. The Transport Ministry said it would toughen checks on foreign vessels stopping at Japan`s ports because of an increase in disasters at sea.