Call for collation of coastline casualties

Tuesday 16th April 2013

Guillemot cpt Teresa NaylorGuillemot cpt Teresa Naylor

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is calling for the public to help record the number of dead seabirds washing up along the south coast of Cornwall to fully understand the scale of the recent disaster and help support a future campaign to change the law managing pollution in our seas.

More than 400 seabirds have washed ashore on Cornish beaches, from Whitsand Bay to Falmouth.  They are mainly guillemots, but there have also been numerous gannets, cormorants, gulls and even puffins.

The 24 hour Marine Stranding Network hotline number is 0845 2012626

The birds are covered in a sticky substance called polyisobutylene (PIB) which is the same synthetic chemical that caused a similar problem off the Dorset coast earlier this year.  It is extremely hazardous to marine life such as seabirds which dive down into the water to feed and then become covered in the sticky substance which leads to immobilisation, hyperthermia, starvation and eventually death.

Whilst the exact source of this pollution is unknown, it is thought to have been flushed into the sea during cleaning of ship’s tanks or clearing ballast water.

Volunteers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue and local marine conservation groups have been working closely with RSPCA to rescue any live birds found and these have been taken to the RSPCA’s West Hatch centre in Taunton for treatment.

However, dead birds are just as important in enabling the full scale of this incident to be determined.

Abby Crosby, Marine Conservation officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: 

“It has been a terribly sad time for everyone seeing these beautiful birds washing up in horrific numbers dead along our coastline. Something must change in the legislation managing our seas the stop this happening again.

Under the MARPOL Convention (which regulates pollution from ships), although PIB is considered to present a hazard to the marine environment, it is legal to discharge in certain quantities directly into the sea, with conditions.

Abby continues:

“Urgent action is required to prevent PIB causing further death and destruction within the marine environment through its discharge into the sea. To support a campaign to change the law, we need to collate true figures about how many birds have been affected. So far our brilliant volunteers have been sending in their reports but the strandings may continue so recording needs to continue.”

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is calling on all members of the public to head out to the coast over the next few days and record the number of dead seabirds seen by calling its 24 hour Marine Stranding Network hotline number on 0845 2012626.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Strandings Network is the licensed recorder for all marine strandings in Cornwall.  The Network consists of a team of over 100 volunteers who record all reported strandings of marine organisms on Cornwall's coastline, including sea birds.

Tagged with: Living Seas