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Napoli is disaster for region?s wildlife

Dorset coast hit by spilled oil ? fears also for Devon birds

The RSPB has raised fears that the effects of oil spilled by the MSC Napoli could hit seabirds that breed in the region.

There have been reports of hundreds of oiled birds, most of which are guillemots, washing up along Chesil Beach and at Portland Bill in Dorset. Guillemots have recently returned to cliff ledges on Portland where they breed over the spring and summer.

The RSPB’s South West seabird specialist, Helen Booker said: “Guillemots start congregating at their breeding sites at this time of year and if birds that breed here are among those oiled then this could have a dramatic effect on the colony.”

Portland Bill has one of the largest guillemot colonies on the south coast, with several hundred birds congregating on the cliffs there each summer.

The RSPCA is leading the operation to recover and clean up oiled birds on the Dorset coast, but staff from the RSPB’s Weymouth nature reserves are also lending a hand.RSPB regional policy officer Mark Robins said: “Once again, birds and other wildlife suffer while we wait for progress towards the proper protection the natural environment deserves. There’s just got to be better approaches to shipping management. More than 10 years on from the 1994 Lord Donaldson Enquiry following the Braer disaster and we’re still waiting for those ‘Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas’”.

The RSPB’s South West Regional Office plans to mobilise a team of volunteers to monitor beaches east of Branscombe in Devon, where the Napoli beached, to determine the effects of the oil spill outside of the worst hit Dorset beaches.

The conservation charity is particularly concerned about how the oil will affect birds in Lyme Bay which is recognised for its wide diversity of marine wildlife and fisheries.Helen Booker added: “The area is used regularly by seabirds in winter, including concentrations of guillemots, razorbills and common scoter, a type of sea duck which is often a major casualty of pollution incidents. It appears that a relatively small amount of oil has leaked into the sea off Devon and Dorset, but given the birds affected so far, our concern now is whether there is more to come.”

As well as oiled birds washed up on shore, there may also be a risk to birds out at sea. Experts say that, depending on weather conditions, anywhere between three and ten times as many birds die at sea than are washed up on the shore.

4th July 2014