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Many more stricken seabirds found on south coast beaches

Added: 15th April 2013

The number of dead and distressed seabirds found on the south coast increased dramatically over the weekend. Hundreds of birds, mostly guillemots, but also a smaller number of razorbills and puffins, were washed up on beaches in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

After five days of reports of birds being found covered in a sticky, oily substance, the area affected seems to have widened. Meanwhile the proportion of dead birds among those washed up has increased.

Locals and visitors alike spotted hundreds of stricken seabirds on beaches around Looe at the weekend. At Wembury Marine Centre near Plymouth, Devon Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers discovered twenty dead guillemots on the small beach there on Sunday.

Cat Andrews, Wembury Marine Centre’s warden said: "We were expecting to find only dead birds now, after seeing so many on the beach yesterday. But this morning, someone has brought a live guillemot into the Centre. It’s so distressing to see a living creature in such a terrible state, especially as there are no facilities here to ease its suffering." Thirty dead birds were found at Wembury on Monday morning, including one puffin.

The substance itself is though to be the same material that killed so many seabirds off the south coast in February. It could even be material from the same ship, affecting the coast once more due to a change in wind direction, as the substance does not disperse in the water easily.

Both incidents highlight the threats faced by the UK’s marine wildlife, which is partly a problem of being ‘out of sight, out of mind’. DWT’s Marine Conservation Officer, Richard White, commented: "If a similar event occurred on land, people from all walks of life would be horrified by the devastation caused to the countryside and the polluters would be named and shamed. Because the marine environment is unseen by most, the only way to give marine wildlife any protection is through effective legislation."

Anyone who still finds a live bird covered in the oily substance should phone the RSPCA helpline on 0300 1234999.

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