High alert following oil slick

131108a'Oil warning sign which have been put up at Coble landing in Filey'Picture by Neil Silk'12/03/13
131108a'Oil warning sign which have been put up at Coble landing in Filey'Picture by Neil Silk'12/03/13

Staff at a major wildlife colony are on high alert following an oil slick that has hit Scarborough’s coastline.

Seabirds at Flamborough Head are under threat at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Centre as thousands of birds return to the Yorkshire coast in preparation for breeding on the cliffs around the headland.

The spillage was first reported on Friday, and since then north-easterly winds and heavy seas may have moved the oil, making it difficult to know how significant the impact of the slick will be.

Around 50 birds are so far believed to have been affected in Scarborough, with puffins, guillemots, razorbills and shags all at risk..

Kirsten Smith, The Wildlife Trusts’ North Sea Living Seas Manage, said; “At this time of year thousands of seabirds are returning from their wintering grounds and are starting to assemble offshore, ready for the breeding season.

“Oil or other harmful substances can be lethal to seabirds and the unfortunate timing of a spill like this could deal a devastating blow to Flamborough’s celebrated seabirds.”

Seabirds affected by oil lose the waterproofing and insulating properties of their feathers preventing them from feeding and keeping warm.

If they are cleaned they can sometimes be saved.

Sadly birds try to preen the oil off their feathers and in doing so ingest some of the poisonous substance which can prove fatal.

Members of the public finding a seabird in distress should contact staff at the Living Seas Centre on 01262 422103 who can give advice.

The source of the oil is unknown at present and Scarborough Council, the Environment Agency and the Marine Management Organisation have taken immediate action to monitor and tackle the spill.