Published: 29 November 2013
The guillemot colony that resides on the cliffs of Berry Head has returned for the winter. Whilst other colonies along the channel coast have seen a drop in numbers, the colony here is looking good and strong. The guillemot colony is protected by an act of parliament, which protects them during their breeding season. As part of the Berry Head team’s duties, frequent checks on numbers are carried out. The colony count has been ongoing now for 25 years.
Berry Head Countryside Officer Noel Hughes says, “We’re very pleased that the guillemots have returned once again and they are a fantastic addition to the site once more. People visit from miles around to see the guillemots from our bird hide, and the birds have such character that visitors often stay for quite some time to appreciate these lovely seabirds. Especially in light of recent events.”
Earlier in the year, more than 4,000 birds were killed and many more injured by discharges of the chemical polyisobutene (PIB) found off the coast between Cornwall and Sussex. A good proportion of these were guillemots.
Until recently, it has been legal for vessels to discharge PIBs when they wash out their tanks, as long as they are more than 12 nautical miles from the nearest point of land. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has now reclassified PIBs with effect from 2014 meaning that ships will only be able to wash their tanks and dispose of any PIB residues while in port.
Noel adds, “This reclassification could not have come quickly enough. We were very lucky that our guillemot colony appears unaffected by the spill, but the outcome could have been very different on another day. It is reassuring that the guillemots, and rest of the marine environment, is now protected from having to face the devastating effect of a PIB spill in the future.”