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RSPB Calls for action to prevent further seabird tragedies.

The RSPB has today called for tighter international regulations to prevent a substance implicated in the deaths of thousands of seabirds from being released into our seas. The substance, Polyisobutene (or PIB), was yesterday identified by scientists at the University of Plymouth from samples taken from seabirds washed up along southwestern coasts, which accords with analysis done separately by the Environment Agency. PIB is believed to have been responsible for over 4,000 seabird deaths in at least four incidents around European coasts in recent years (in 1994 off Merseyside; in 1998 and in 2010 off the Dutch coast, and the current incident on the south coast of England), yet is currently given one of the lowest hazard classifications under MARPOL (category Z: substances presenting a minor hazard to either marine resources or human health and therefore justifying less stringent restrictions on the quality and quantity of discharge into the marine environment).

The RSPB has pointed to evidence that raises questions about the validity of this classification, and believes the current classification does not take into consideration the impact on marine wildlife when PIB mixes with seawater — the effects of PIB are only tested under laboratory conditions which do not take into account harmful changes to seabirds and the marine environment when mixed with seawater. As a result, PIB can still legally be dumped into the sea when vessels wash out their tanks. Alec Taylor, the RSPB's Marine Policy Officer, said: "Given that this substance is used for making chewing gum, adhesive tape and cosmetics, millions of people safely come into contact with it every day. However, it's when it mixes with seawater that this chemical can become lethal for seabirds, covering them in a sticky goo, and preventing them from flying, feeding and ultimately surviving."

The RSPB is seeking public support to call on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to review the hazard classification of PIB urgently, and to implement regulations that prevent any further tragic and wholly avoidable incidents like the one just witnessed.

Friday 8th February 2013

Cape Gannet

The Cape Gannet - Morus capensis - originally Sula capensis, is a large seabird of the gannet family, Sulidae.


They are easily identified by their large size, black and white plumage. The pale blue bill is pointed with fine serrations near the tip. They have a distinctive golden crown and nape, which gradually becomes white on the neck. Juveniles and Immatures are dark brown with a pale bill.


Usually silent at sea. Rasping arrah arrah is most common call at colonies.


They are fish-eating birds that plunge-dive from considerable height.


The breeding range of Cape Gannet is restricted to Southern Africa in three islands off  Namibia and three islands off South Africa.

Conservation Status – Vulnerable

Its population has decreased by at least 20% in three generations, and is especially in trouble in Namibia. Numbers at the Namibian islands have declined considerably between 1956 and 2000 from 114,600 to 18,200 breeding pairs respectively, an 84% decrease in less than fifty years. This is largely due to the collapse of Sardine (Sardinops sagax) and other fish stock, as well as occasional oil spills which cause hundreds of deaths. This contrasts with the trends at the South African islands where numbers have increased about 4.3 times during the same period, from 34,400 to 148,000 breeding pairs. All breeding colonies of the Cape Gannet are under some form of protection.


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