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British Seabirds Killed In Prestige Oil Spill

…thousands of our seabirds will now be in Spanish waters…

Ringed birds from Britain and Ireland have started to be found amongst the seabird corpses washed up on the Spanish Coast, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) disclosed today. Two ringed Puffins, a Guillemot and a Gannet, from seabird colonies on the Scottish and Irish coasts, have already been recovered ? but this is just the start. More birds are expected to be found as the clean-up continues.Martin Heubeck, a seabird researcher from Shetland, who works for the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group, is now in Spain with other seabird experts to assist with the response to the spill. He reports large numbers of dead Razorbills - mainly young birds - on the beaches, together with smaller numbers of Gannets, Shags, and Puffins. Nearly all are dead - smothered in oil.The newly published BTO Migration Atlas: movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland clearly shows that thousands of our familiar seabirds will now be in Spanish waters and therefore vulnerable to the toxic oil. There are now three birds for which we have confirmed details.Guillemot - T82910 - Ringed on the nest - 28 June 2002 Sanda Island, Kintyre, Scotland - Found oiled - 17 Nov 2002
Puffin - EK3011 - Ringed as an adult - 20 July 1988 - Sule Skerry, Orkney, Scotland ? Found oiled - 23 Nov 2002
Gannet - 1363536 - Ringed in the nest - 21 June 1991 Great Saltee Island, Wexford, Ireland - Found oiled - 23 Nov 2002
All three birds were ringed by volunteer ringers, working on behalf of the British Trust for Ornithology. NB
It is very difficult to find dead birds in the thick, toxic oil and it is likely that only a small proportion of the birds affected will be found. Most will probably not come ashore and others will be shovelled up and disposed of. The four birds carrying rings registered to the British and Irish scheme were found in the first 300 or so birds to be looked at by volunteers. The only other ringed bird carried a Finnish ring.The Migration Atlas (see http://www.bto.org/research/projects/atlas.htm) shows that many Razorbills, Gannets and Lesser Black-backed Gulls that breed in Britain and Ireland will now be in Spanish waters, together with smaller numbers of Guillemots, Puffins, Kittiwakes, Bonxies (Great Skuas) and Fulmars, all likely to become victims to the deadly fuel oil. Long-term studies of seabirds in Britain give us a clear insight into the migration patterns of many of our seabirds and the first of the ringed birds confirm the results shown in this new Atlas. Species such as Arctic Skuas, Storm Petrels, Manx Shearwaters, Arctic and Common Terns will have recently migrated through the area and will now be south of the danger zone. Unfortunately, oil being released from the sunken vessel could still pollute the area for many months and this could mean that these species become at risk of the black death when they migrate north through this area next spring. There are, of course, also likely to be chronic effects on the environment of the area.For further information contact:
Graham Appleton on 01842 750050 or E-mail: graham.appleton@bto.org or Chris Mead on 01760 756466 or E-mail: chris.mead@zetnet.co.uk

4th July 2014