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More birds die, but no clue where oil is from

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MORE oil-covered birds have died and oil has been washed up on beaches, but the cause of the pollution is still a mystery.

Warning signs were put up at Pembroke and L’Ancresse after numerous blobs of oil were found on the central reef. It is thought to be old, but it is not known where from. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 23577525)

Of the six birds so far brought to the GSPCA, four have died and the charity has said it is preparing for an influx of sick animals.

Heavy, saucer-sized oil deposits have been spotted at Pembroke and L’Ancresse.

An Agriculture, Countryside and Land Management Services spokesman said they had received a report of numerous oil blobs – about 10-15cm in diameter – on the central reef of the bay yesterday morning.

The States Works coastal team cleared away as much as they could find. Cautionary signs have been put up to warn beach users.

The discovery of the oil has resulted in growing concern for seabirds. GSPCA manager Steve Byrne said they had now helped six guillemots since the weekend.

‘Two of the six are in intensive care and four have been so badly affected we were unable to save them,’ he said.

The six guillemots were collected from Grandes Rocques, Saints Bay, Castle Emplacement, Salerie Corner and Pulias Pond.

As well as the guillemots, there have been reports of a flock of sanderlings – a wading species – at Grandes Rocques. Half of the birds spotted were thought to have oil on them.

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Environment Guernsey manager Jamie Hooper said that although he had seen plenty of oiled birds in the past, there seemed to be a higher-than-normal number of affected birds this month. He was surprised to hear that the sanderlings had been affected.

‘Auks [like puffins and guillemots] and gulls are often the most obvious victims and, due to prevailing winds, the west coast generally takes the brunt of the problem,’ he said.

‘Birds will also come ashore along the south coast but may not be found. However, the birds can be encountered anywhere.’

The source of the oil has still not been confirmed.

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ACLMS said the oil was very dark, solidifying and crusted, which indicated that the oil had been at sea for a while and been broken up by wave action. It is likely to be old oil or be from a ship at sea discharging oily water. The act of dumping oil at sea is illegal.

Mr Byrne said the GSPCA had no doubt that more oiled birds will need help in the coming days and the team have additional pens prepared in anticipation of more casualties.

He is also concerned that islanders who try to rescue an oiled bird themselves might cause the animal to return to the sea.

‘If you see an oiled bird please call us immediately,’ said Mr Byrne.

. If an oiled bird is discovered call the GSPCA on 257261. If oil is found on a beach, call Agriculture, Countryside and Land Management Services on 234567.

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