Ayrmer Cove is a secluded beach on the South Devon Coast and like so many of these small inlets it’s only accessible easily on foot, making it a deserted but beautiful spot. On a recent visit, it’s warm here and the sunlight shimmers on the waves as they make their relentless passage over the sand. The only other sound is the song of the skylarks which repeats and repeats as though the birds are continually asking a question but it is never answered.
As we poke around the beach it’s clear that the beauty of this place is incomplete. All over the beach we find small plastic items, pieces of rope, shards of rubber from old tyres, fragments of plastic bottles etc. All kinds of maritime rubbish are on display here.
Happily we do not find any dead seabirds. Quite recently more than a thousand dead seabirds have been found washed up on beaches in Devon and Cornwall. In fact this is the second time this has occurred this year. On both occasions the seabirds have been killed by a chemical (polyisobutene (PIB)) carried by ships and discharged in to the sea when they wash out their tanks. The discharged PIB does not mix with water and so forms a sticky mass; the birds become coated in the chemical and cannot dive or feed.
The chemical is not toxic to humans and is used extensively in different forms as an oil additive, in chewing gum and in cosmetics and as a synthetic rubber. Its effects on seabirds and marine life in general have not been well researched and the RSPB is calling for increased regulation and scientific investigation. 38 degrees also has a petition.
All I really want to do here is to draw some attention to the problems of indiscriminate dumping in the seas. It’s another example of our cavalier attitude to the natural world and I am not sure what we can do about it or how long it can go on.