| Stricken seabirds wash up along south coast of England|
|Hundreds more dead and distressed birds have been found washed up along the south coast. The birds – mostly guillemots but also a smaller number of razorbills and puffins – have been found covered in a sticky, oily substance on beaches across Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.|
The Devon Wildlife Trust said that the proportion of dead birds among those washed up has increased, with hundreds of stricken seabirds found on beaches around Looe over the weekend.
Cat Andrews, a warden at the Wembury Marine Centre, near Plymouth, 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."
Around 30 dead birds were found at Wembury last Monday morning, including one puffin.
The current pollution appears to be the same type of chemical that affected more than 300 birds earlier this year along a 200-mile stretch of coast.
Staff at the RSPCA's West Hatch centre in Taunton first tried to clean the birds with soapy water, which was not successful. They found cleaning them with margarine was more effective.
Experts at Plymouth University found the mystery substance was almost certain to be polyisobutene, an oil additive known as PIB which has a chemical mixture ranging from oils to solids.
But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it had been unable to trace the source of the spill.
The Devon Wildlife Trust said the pollutant could even be material from the same ship, affecting the coast once more due to a change in wind direction.
Marine conservation officer Richard White said: "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."
Meanwhile, the RSPB is to raise with the government the issue of legal discharges of PIB into the sea.
The charity is seeking support for PIB to be reclassified by the International Maritime Organisation to prohibit discharges at sea in routine tank-washing operations.
Tony Whitehead, from the RSPB, said: "We simply do not know how much PIB is released into the marine environment as part of routine tank-washing operations, and the cumulative impacts of these releases.
"It is accepted that when the full impact of a substance on the environment is not known then you proceed with caution. This is the case with PIB.
"These recent incidents could be the result of illegal discharges. But equally they could be the result of legal discharges - we just don't know.
"But what we do know is we have birds covered in this stuff on our beaches. We believe it's only right that we work as hard as we can to prevent this happening again."