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A duck caught in a Syncrude tailing pond. Image came from court and was taken by Todd Powell, with the Alberta government. Taken on the last three days of April, 2008.Handout

A new study suggests that birds are likely dying in oil sands tailings ponds at least 30 times the rate suggested by industry and government.

Study author Kevin Timoney says his results add more weight to arguments that relying on industry to monitor its own environmental impacts isn't working.

Industry reports that the average number of birds that die in oil sands tailings ponds is about 65.

But using a combination of observed data and scientifically established averages, Mr. Timoney puts the median figure closer to 2,000 every year.

Sustainable Resources Minister Mel Knight admits that bird deterrence and monitoring could be improved.

But he says that relying on industry to keep track of the oil sands environmental impact allows for round-the-clock, seven-day-a-week monitoring.

The study is published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.