Oil spillage threatens Yorkshire’s seabirds

Tuesday 12th March 2013

Selwicks Bay fog station Flamborough cpt David NicholsSelwicks Bay fog station Flamborough cpt David Nichols

An oil slick is currently threatening one of Yorkshire’s most important wildlife colonies, the seabirds of Flamborough Head.

The staff at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Centre, at Flamborough, are on high alert as thousands return to the coast in preparation for breeding on the cliffs around the headland.

At this time of year thousands of seabirds are returning from their wintering grounds and starting to assemble offshore, ready for the breeding season

Members of the public finding a seabird in distress should not touch it but contact staff at the Living Seas Centre on 01262 422103 who can give advice.

Kirsten Smith, The Wildlife Trusts’ North Sea Living Seas Manager, said:

“At this time of year thousands of seabirds are returning from their wintering grounds and starting to assemble offshore, ready for the breeding season.  Oil or other harmful substances can be lethal to seabirds and the unfortunate timing of a spill like this could deal a devastating blow to Flamborough’s celebrated seabirds.”

Seabirds affected by oil lose the waterproofing and insulating properties of their feathers.  This prevents them from feeding and keeping warm.  If cleaned they can sometimes be saved.  However, birds try to preen the oil off their feathers and, in doing so, ingest some of the poisonous substance which can cause death, even after they have been cleaned.

The oil spillage was first reported on Friday; since then north-easterly winds and heavy seas may have moved the oil so it is difficult to know how significant the impact of the slick will be.  So far, the largest reports of oiled birds have been from Scarborough where up to 70 birds are known to have been affected.  Birds that could be affected include puffins, guillemots, razorbills and shags.

The source of the oil is unknown at present. Scarborough Borough Council, the Environment Agency and the Marine Management Organisation have taken immediate action - welcomed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - to monitor and tackle the spill.

Protecting seabirds from oil spillages is one of the reasons why Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is campaigning for the development of a network of Marine Protected Areas, including new sites called Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).  Seven of these recommended sites occur off the Yorkshire Coast.  Through the development of a network of protected areas at sea Yorkshire Wildlife Trust hopes to see increased protection of mobile species, including seabirds, whales and dolphins.  Of the 127 recommended MCZs put forward for designation in 2013 none occur within Yorkshire waters.   You can help us change this by adding your say to www.wildlifetrusts.org/haveyoursay.

Joanna Richards
Tel 01904 659570

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust  www.ywt.org.uk
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is a local charity working for a county rich in wildlife. We look after over 95 of Yorkshire’s best places for wildlife and encourage people to visit and get involved with their care.  We stand up for Yorkshire’s wildlife wherever it is under threat, and work with others to find solutions that benefit both wildlife and people.  We inspire thousands of children, families and others every year, reconnecting them with their local environment and wildlife.  With the support of these people, we are restoring and recreating a Living Landscape in Yorkshire and raising awareness of, and fighting for, Yorkshire’s Living Sea.

The Wildlife Trusts www.wildlifetrusts.org
There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK.  All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone.  We have more than 800,000 members including 150,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch. Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas. We manage around 2,300 nature reserves and every year we advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife.  We also run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife.  Every year we work with thousands of schools and our nature reserves and visitor centres receive millions of visitors.  Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.

Tagged with: Living Seas