Exhausted and dead seabirds have washed up on the shores of France, the Channel Islands and south England in their thousands because of the continual stormy weather. We are calling for your support with a pan-Channel Islands emergency response and monitoring effort.
Current situation - Update 01/06/14
Europe’s seabirds face a losing battle this winter after back-to-back storms hit over-wintering birds off the western coast of Europe. The resultant massive loss of life is described as a ‘seabird wreck’ and has hit birds as they prepare to return to their breeding grounds. Given the timing of the wreck there is an increasing likelihood that birds from Channel Island colonies, many of which have been experiencing population declines and breeding failures in recent years, will be caught up in this latest disaster.
The current seabird death toll for the 2014 Seabird Wreck is 46,009, over three times that of the Torrey Canyon Oil Spill Disaster.
Puffins represent the majority of the deaths, followed by Guillemots and Razorbills. However over 20 species have been affected including many of Aldenrey's own Gannets, Gulls and Shags.
Speculation is rife as to why puffins have been so badly hit. However, as the puffin moulting season, when the birds are unable to fly, may well have coincided with the highpoint in the recent storms, this may well be a factor. Yet one fact is clear, given the time of year and the scale of the wreck birds from the Channel Islands and British breeding populations will be affected by this disaster, either killed directly or so malnourished that they struggle to breed successfully this year.
Where you can help
You can help this pan-Channel Island effort by following the links to pledge your support or report a sighting.
The Alderney Wildlife Trust (AWT) and its patron Miranda Krestovnikoff are calling for a pan-Channel Island effort to increase monitoring and protection of the Channel Islands’ seabirds, in the aftermath of potentially the largest seabird disaster in recent years.
Monitoring of the impacts continues in all three main islands, with the States of Jersey and Guernsey accepting sightings reports of dead birds and the GSPCA and JSPCA responding to the increased number of exhausted survivors also present on those islands. A call on Wednesday for an island wide survey of Guernsey beaches on Saturday 22nd, organized by the Guernsey Environment Department, with support from La Société Guernesiaise ornithology section, RSPB Guernsey and GSPCA, led to an immediate and passionate response. The results of this survey were compiled and will be added to those collated by surveyors from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the National Trust for Jersey and the Alderney Wildlife Trust to give the Channel Islands a much clearer understanding of the impacts of the wreck. This pan-Channel Island response to the wreck is a good example of how government bodies, NGOs and volunteers can come together to respond to wildlife emergencies. Further links are also being established to share information and knowledge with UK and French bodies including the Groupe Ornithologique Normand (GONm).
But the AWT is urging islanders to recognise that this disaster will not be over when the bodies stop washing up on the beach. This is the 3rd major wreck to have occurred which has impacted British seabird populations in the past 12 months (2 natural causes and 1 caused by PIB discharge). Seabirds are of great value to the Channel Islands, not only as an integral part of their ecosystems or as creatures of extraordinary grace and beauty, but also because they play an important role in the islands’ natural image. In 2013 the States of Alderney, in conjunction with the Alderney Wildlife Trust and Leeds Metropolitan University, undertook research into the value of environmental tourism to the island’s economy and this identified an estimated annual value of around £2.5 million.
As a result of these concerns, and given the growing number of ‘unusual’ weather events impacting the islands and their wildlife, the Alderney Wildlife Trust is asking Channel Island governments and conservationists to support a pan-island effort to assess the status of its iconic seabird and other marine species and co-ordinate a joint effort to ensure their long term survival.
The AWT is asking for public support for the conservation and welfare organisations across the islands which are having to respond to the hugely increased pressures caused by the wreck. Volunteers and staff are daily faced with the task of nursing the increasing number of injured birds from the wreck, whilst dozens more face the grind of recovering the bodies of the dead birds and attempting to ensure information such as the origin, age (were the birds from breeding colonies), sex and health of the birds is recorded. Yet there is very little additional resources to assist in this work.
Miranda Krestovnikoff – AWT Patron (President RSPB) said:
‘The incredible dedication of volunteers and staff of NGOs and Government from across the Channel Islands in their response to this natural crisis, is one of the reasons I have developed such an affinity with the islands. You love and value your wildlife and this is vital in the changing world we find ourselves in. Your massive effort clearly demonstrates what can be achieved by working together as islands.
Therefore it is vitally important that the you do not allow joint effort to cease once the bodies of birds finally stop appearing your beaches; this event is unusual but there is a clear and increasing trend on ‘record’ weather events which is changing the nature of the British Isles.
The ‘Channel Islands’ can and must pull together to protect your seabird populations, one of the your most vital natural resources, so that future generations of islanders and visitors can take pleasure from our puffins, shags and so many other stunning birds.’
What to do if you find a dead or stranded bird
If you are out on the beaches alone and come across any dead seabirds under no circumstances handle them. A small, but significant, percentage of birds have been washed ashore with oil substances on them which are toxic. If you come across dead birds you can submit the sightings to your local record collector, which are the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the States of Guernsey or the Alderney Wildlife Trust. Alternatively you can complete the RSWT's online form.
Channel Island Contacts
Alderney Wildlife Trust - Roland Gauvain (Trust Manager) firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0) 1481 822935
States of Guernsey Environment Department - Janice Dockerill (Environment Services Officer; Communications)
email@example.com / +44 (0) 1481 717026
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust - Glyn Young (Conservation Biologist) Glyn.Young@durrell.org / Tel: +44 (0)1534 860000