Alderney covers an area of just 8 square kilometres, surrounded by thousands of square Kilometres of open water. The island lies in a nexus of tides flowing between the English Channel, Bay of Norman Breton and the Atlantic, which boil past the island at in excessive of 10kph, and carrying millions of tons of plankton, zooplankton and the marine life which accompanies it.

Seabirds flock to this rich marine river and Alderney has some of the most impressive seabird populations in the whole of the southern British Isles. However, this stream is also rich in the wastes which are so prolific in the western world. Huge amounts of everything from fishing net, to crisp packets are caught up in this flow, lost and invisible to the human eye in the rush of the sea, but not invisible to the wildlife which lives on it.

As an island Alderney escapes almost all of this deatrus thanks yet again to the strength of the tides which surround it. The waters flowing past the island hold on to their prize and don’t often surrender it to the island. Yet one species which calls Alderney home, has a particular magpie eye for the dubious treasure trapped in our seas.


Alderney lies on the very southern edge of this spectacular seabirds range and its 2 gannetries are home to around 2% of the World’s population of Northern gannets. The next British colony lies over 300km to the North at Grassholm.

Gannets forage over vast ranges and Alderney’s birds have been tracked using GPS transmitters ranging from Alderney along almost the entire south coast of England and even as far as the Thames estuary and the Dutch coastline. They build their nest from flotsam they spy in their water with the male taking primary responsibility for the upkeep and care of these shallow seaweed walled bowls which nestle precariously on the near vertical faces of the Les Etacs and Ortac colonies.


Over the past 50 years the primary building material for Gannets has moved from being seaweed to a combination of perhaps as much as 50% plastics and natural material in some nests and this in turn has created a unique combination of risk and security. Whilst marine waste, especially net and line either lost or discarded at sea are now perhaps the biggest artificial cause of death for these birds, they also provide perhaps superior nesting material, which lasts for dozens of years rather than a few months. Beyond that there is the hidden toll of how much plastic may be getting into the seabirds diet and causing problems which cannot be seen or even responded to.



Each year the Alderney Wildlife Trust and the local Animal Welfare respond to numerous cases of juvenile and adult gannets with injuries cause by plastics, a problem which is dumped on local wildlife in our island’s waters from far afield.