Guernsey

Alderney Wildlife Trust concern for birds in oil slick

Guillemots seen swimming in the Swinge off Alderney covered in a glue like substance (photo: Jake Woodnutt)
Image caption The Guillemots were spotted near the Alderney Wildlife Trust puffin colony

An urgent race is on to save injured seabirds following reports of a large oil slick.

A large whitish spill with foaming edges has been spotted by airline passengers on the sea surface.

Guillemots have been found coated in a clear substance which seems to be affecting their ability to fly.

The trust is worried the substance could be PIB which has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of seabirds off England's south west coast.

Roland Gauvain, trust manager, said the Guillemots were found alive and swimming in the Alderney Swinge with what appeared to be a glue like substance on their feathers.

He said: "They were approximately 1km north of Alderney and only 1.km south east of Burhou, our main puffin, lesser black-backed and storm petrel colony.

"Without an actual sample being taken it is impossible to say if this is PIB. The back-combing and gluing of the feathers seems very similar to the two dead birds we have previously recovered and had samples returned for.

"I have 10 years of recovering injured birds fouled and otherwise from around the island and having seen PIB first hand I am fairly confident that these birds have PIB or some very similar substance on them."

The trust is calling for people in the Bailiwick to help search for injured seabirds.

Mr Gauvain said the slick could have already damaged marine life.

"The problem with the Channel Islands is that with the size of our tides we may not see the results of it as the UK have done. Unless we can get samples in the water we can't identify what type of PIB this is.

"Our greatest fear is that we won't have birds washed up and the birds are dead, out at sea and that we won't know anything about it until next year and beyond.

"We then would not have the evidence to put pressure on to get it stopped."

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