Yesterday we once again we made our annual October trip out to Grassholm to cut free juvenile and adult gannets that had become entangled in plastic debris. The bulk of this pollution is from the fishing industry and consists of fishing line and synthetic rope that ends up as waste in the sea. It is then brought ashore by gannets who mistake it for seaweed and build it into their nests. Over the course of the season some birds become tangled (young birds in particular as they are sat at the nest site for many months).  I won't repeat myself here too much as we have covered this on the blog previously - see here, here and here for more information

This year we freed 50 birds in total (42 juveniles and 8 adults) bringing the total for the past 10 years to 557. Most were healthy on release but a few had very bad lacerations on their feet from the effect of the plastic digging into the leg for so long. It is questionable if these will survive in the long run but at least they have a chance now. We were too late for others unfortunately and we logged 22 young and 10 adults that were freshly dead. We would, of course, love to be able to save these birds but if we went any earlier in the season we would  disturb breeding birds and the negative effect of our visit would far outweight the positives

With 8 million tonnes of plastic estimated to be entering the seas every year, our annual mission is a drop in the ocean (so to speak) but aside from the obvious animal welfare benefit it brings to those individuals, it is also a way of highlighting the issue to the wider public and hopefully in the long run we will see improvements if enough people make enough noise in the right places.

Thank you to Sarah Moore from BBC Radio Wales for accompanying us - the programme is going out soon on Radio Wales (we will post a link to it). Also thanks to photographers Drew Buckley and Sam Hobson for covering the story in pictures for various outlets

Massive thanks to all our helpers this year - Holly Kirk (OxNav, Oxford University), Jen Tyler (University of Exeter ESI) ,Morgan Wicks (who will be familiar to many as our Gower Ranger skipper for Thousand Islands Expeditions), Ffion Rees (local boat skipper and Chair of the Porthstinian Boatowners Association) and of course to our long time Grassholm 'cavalry' Tim, Beth and Arnie from Venture Jet for safely landing us (and bringing us back!) from Grassholm - not only were they boatmen yesterday but gannet rescuers too!

Arnie (from Venture Jet) and Holly teaming up to cut free a tangled juvenile


An otherwise fit and healthy juvenile gannet firmly tethered to the nest by the leg (without intervention this bird would have starved to death)


A close up of the bird above showing the huge amount of rope / netting around its leg



Sadly we are too late for some birds (adult above, juvenile below)

The 2015 team consisting of media, local boat skippers and crew, seabird researchers and conservationists - thanks to all

 

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