Sticky waxy oil destroying sea birds in the south of England
Wildlife agencies are worried that a wave of sticky pollution found from the sea could affect birds by killing them or rendering them useless. This is the second such incident that has occurred just this year. The source of the problem remains a mystery.
Experts are unsure what the pollution exactly is but say that it is a sticky, waxy substance that is said to resemble polyisobutylene.
In Devon and Cornwall wildlife agencies say the number of birds that are killed or made useless could reach thousands and that a generation of seabirds may have been wiped out from this incident alone.
The birds most affected are species include razorbill, puffin and gannets; however most at risk are guillemots.
Abby Crosby who works for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust reporting on the issue said that "Over a 24-hour period yesterday, the public reported 130 birds in one stretch small of the south-east coast, plus 140 on just one other beach itself. That's 270 birds in 24 hours in one tiny stretch of coast between Portwrinkle and Seaton. It's tragic, it's horrific."
The substance is said to be polyisobutylene which is an oil additive used in lubricating oil and in products such as chewing gum and rubber gloves. It is manufactured globally and transported all over the world.
The Guardian are able to give some sort of explanation as to its origins “While the exact source of this pollution is unknown, it is thought to have been flushed into the sea during cleaning of a ship's tanks or flushing of ballast water. Although PIB is considered to present a hazard to the marine environment, is it legal to discharge it in certain quantities into the sea under certain circumstances.”
Experts are unsure whether this is part of the original spill that occurred in February that is just being washed around or a fresh batch that has entered the waters.
Currently agencies are concentrating on helping the birds but also counting how many have perished. Once they get a clear figure then they can take their case to the authorities for stricter rules. The birds are being cleaned with margarine and vegetable oil which acts as a solvent, they are then thoroughly washed, left to dry then released back to their habitats.
The problem in catching the culprits is that the substance can take numerous forms. It is also a very common chemical and carried on many ships and is produced world wide. With the previous spill authorities were unable to trace how it had been released.
Furthermore if a ship has the right conditions then it is perfectly legal to dump the chemical. This includes being a certain distance from the shoreline, travelling at a certain speed and discharging below the waterline. Authorities are unsure whether this was a legal or illegal spill but one thing is for sure, they will work hard to prevent it happening again.
Photo: Marine Photobank