Millions of seabirds have vanished since offshore oil production started off Newfoundland 20 years ago, and researchers say there's an urgent need to better monitor related environmental effects.

They say a colony of small nocturnal birds called Leach's storm petrels has shrunk dramatically.

Hibernia platform

Lights from oil facilities like the Hibernia platform attract seabirds, and researchers are calling for regulations that require operators to use light deflectors. (Submitted by Dave Hynes)

Biologist Gail Fraser of York University says there's a glaring lack of consistent scientific monitoring and independent oversight.

Fraser says the federal-provincial regulator for offshore sites doesn't require all operators to assess how often the birds are killed when they fly into artificial light.

Bill Montevecchi

Memorial University seabird biologist Bill Montevecchi says oil rig operators are in a conflict of interest when it comes to reporting environmental incidents. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

She says the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board should require all operators to use light deflectors and allow independent observers.

Seabird specialist Bill Montevecchi of Memorial University of Newfoundland says there's a conflict of interest as operators self-report environmental incidents for which they're liable.