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Pollution which killed sea birds may remain a mystery

Scientists investigating mass pollution which injured and killed hundreds of sea birds along the south coast say the source of the contamination may never be known.

Around 300 birds, mostly guillemots, were treated at the RSPCA West Hatch centre near Taunton following the spill. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said that it had been unable to trace the source of the spill and confirmed it has closed the investigation.

After tests were carried out on a sample of the product, it was identified as polyisobutene, or polyisobutyliene. This is a fairly common chemical carried aboard ships and it is produced in a large number of countries.Despite further tests, we have been unable to identify specific components of the product that may have helped us find the source. Unless we receive any new information, our investigation is now closed.

– Maritime and Coastguard Agency

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RSPCA say margarine has been a "life-saver"

We are incredibly grateful for donations of margarine, fish for the birds and even some food for the staff which have come in from lots of local people.

This incident was completely unexpected and came out of the blue. We were not expecting such sudden vast numbers of birds to come through our doors in need of help and we were literally running out of the margarine to clean them and fish to feed them.

It is still early days and hard to say how the birds will survive in the long-term but the margarine is proving to be a real life-saver."

– Peter Venn, West Hatch manager

Public donate margarine to help seabirds

Members of the public have donated margarine and fish to help seabirds which were taken to a Somerset rescue centre after being contaminated with a mystery paraffin oil.

Staff at the RSPCA's West Hatch centre in Taunton are caring for more than 300 birds which were found covered in the sticky substance along the south coast.

The birds, mainly guillemots but some of them razorbills, were found mainly on Chesil Beach, near Portland and Weymouth.

Subsequent attempts using margarine were more successful, but as the number of the birds arriving at the centre grew, supplies of the life-saving spread dwindled until members of the public stepped in to help.

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Full report: Fight to save birds continues

Animal welfare groups are urging the Government to do all it can to catch those responsible for the spill that's threatened the lives of hundreds of birds washed up in Devon and Dorset.

The RSPB were among those to quiz the Environment Minister in Devon today. Meanwhile the fight to save the seabirds continues in Somerset. Watch John Andrews report.

  1. Richard Lawrence

Full report: RSPB says seabirds need formal protection in marine conservation zones

The RSPB says around 400 birds in total have been rescued from along the south coast but experts are still trying to detmenine exactly what caused the pollution incident.

The charity says it highlights the need for sea birds to be given formal protection in marine conservation zones. Richard lawrence reports.

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