Environmentalist Stan Tobin surveys the ocean from a beach southwest of St. John's on Thursday. ((CBC))

An eastern Newfoundland environmentalist doubts that his home province is prepared to deal with a large offshore oil spill like the one threatening the environment in the Gulf of Mexico.

Stan Tobin of Ship Cove, southwest of St. John's, has seen many of the world's big oil spills first-hand.

"I don't think we have the capacity, I don't think we have the technology, or I don't believe we have the know-how to cope with something like that if it happened," he said. "We're running on a song and a prayer even though I'm sure the people that operate out there are careful."

His comments come as efforts continue to limit environmental damage from a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil has been gushing from a sub-sea well about 80 kilometres off the coast of Louisiana and 1,500 metres below the water's surface. The leak occurred after a drilling rig exploded on April 20 and then sank.

As of Thursday, an estimated 800,000 litres (5,000 barrels) of sweet crude oil were leaking daily. BP officials say it could take up to 90 days to stop the leak, meaning as many as 71.5 million litres could get into the water. Some of the oil has already reached the coast of Louisiana.

Three oil platforms are working in the ocean hundreds of kilometres east of St. John's.

In 2004, two mechanical failures led to the loss of about 1,000 barrels of oil from the Terra Nova offshore oil production vessel, about 350 kilometres southeast of Newfoundland. There are about 160 litres of oil in a barrel.

Tobin, who has helped save birds after spills of oil and from oily bilge water from passing vessels near the province is considering travelling to the Gulf of Mexico next week to see the spill there for himself.

Bill Montevecchi, a bird expert in St. John's, told CBC News he fears seabirds, such as gannets, that migrate between Newfoundland and Labrador and the Gulf of Mexico, may have died as a result of the environmental disaster.