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The latest pollution spillage off the south coast has now left nearly 60 seabirds dead at Chesil Beach.
A week after the first reports of birds covered in a sticky glue like substance being washed up on southwest beaches, wildlife charities have confirmed that the number of dead has passed 1000. This is in addition to the 200+ birds in the care of RSPCA and South Devon Seabird Trust.
As of Friday April 19th, there are now dead birds being washed up on Chesil Beach in Dorset.
The Dorset Wildlife Trust says staff are patrolling the beach and the total so far stands at 58 birds from Chesil Cove – 46 guillemot, 6 gannet, 1 shag, 1 fulmar, 1 razorbill, 1 skua species, 2 juvenile gulls.
They have all been affected by a substance which has been identified as polyisobutene (PIB) by researchers at Plymouth University. It is the second time in just three months that PIB has killed hundreds of seabirds in the South West.
In this latest incident birds have been found in a wide area from Dodman Point, Cornwall to the Teign Estuary, Devon but the worst hit areas have been beaches along Whitsand Bay in south east Cornwall where locals have been counting hundreds of birds every day.
It is not known whether the substance got into the sea as a spill from a ship or as part of legal and routine tank washing operations.
Tony Whitehead from the RSPB said;
“The devastation this substance has caused has been appalling. To see the images of beaches strewn with bodies is a sobering reminder that we just cannot go on treating our precious marine environment as a dustbin.
“If this was an illegal spill, we need to support the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in tracking down the ship responsible. Although this will be difficult, surely it’s not impossible.
“If this was the result of legal tank washing operations, we need to urge the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to tighten up the rules and make it illegal to wash this stuff into the sea.
"It’s a noxious substance and we don’t want it in our marine environment.”
Marc Smith, Chesil Centre Officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust and one of the first on the scene at the similar incident in February this year on Dorset’s beaches, said:
“It was heart-breaking the first time around, seeing hundreds of birds washing up dead or helpless along our shore.
"Knowing this was preventable made the whole thing really stick in your throat.
"Now it is happening again only two months down the line. We need to stop the discharge of PIB into our seas. It’s as simple as that.”
The Wildlife Trusts, RSPCA and RSPB have this week written to shipping minister Stephen Hammond calling on Government to urgently raise the issue of PIB in the marine environment with the IMO and call on them to urgently review the hazard classification of PIB, and implement regulations that prevent its discharge into the sea.