Battle to save the wildlife of Jurassic Coast

By Martin Beckford


The Jurassic Coast is situated in the South West in Devon and Dorset

Britain's beautiful Jurassic Coast along the south coast of Devon and Dorset is a World Heritage Site

Thousands of seabirds are feared to have been contaminated by oil leaking from the stricken cargo ship MSC Napoli.

A guillemot covered in oil from the stricken ship

More than 1,000 birds covered in the fuel have already washed up on nearby beaches but experts believe 10 times as many could have been affected by the spillage.

Conservationists also fear for fish and seals on the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site, as officials warned that the salvage operation, which is already under way with salvors pumping out the ship's fuel oil, could take up to a year.

About 200 tonnes leaked from tanks in the Napoli's flooded engine room after it was damaged in storms and deliberately grounded a mile off Sidmouth, Devon, last weekend.

A further five tonnes of oil spilled into the sea from an pipe on the container ship on Tuesday, causing more damage to the environment, although it has now dissipated.

Two rivers, the Brid and the Axe, have been boomed to prevent them being contaminated by oil.

Sophie Atherton, a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: "In excess of 1,000 birds have been affected and that is very, very bad news for the area's wildlife.

"But it's widely recognised that for every bird washed up there could be between three and 10 times as many out at sea.

"Any large quantity of oil entering a marine environment, especially one as precious as Lyme Bay, is very bad news."

Guillemots are thought to be the bird species worst hit by the oil spill but there are also fears for colonies of gannets and the critically-endangered balearic shearwaters.

Dead fish including conger eel, bass and whiting have also been found washed up near the Napoli.

And if the contaminated birds are eaten by the large number of seals living off the Dorset coast, they could also die.

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: "If the birds are not able to fly or move quickly they will make an easy lunch for the seals. The oil on the birds could poison the seals. This really is a worry of ours."

More than 400 oil-covered birds have been rescued and taken to RSPCA centres in Somerset and East Sussex, and the organisation has been overwhelmed by people volunteering to help clean up wildlife affected by the oil spill.

"We are extremely grateful to everybody who has come forward but we are now struggling to deal with the volume of calls at what is already a very busy time," the spokesman said.

The salvage operation: salvage team was last night pumping the 3,600 tonnes of oil still on board the Napoli on to the Forth Fisher tanker. The process is expected to take more than a week.

The salvors, wearing breathing apparatus, must climb through manholes in the deck and into the fuel tanks to insert the hoses that suck out the oil.

At the weekend cranes will arrive to remove the remaining containers from the ship and then a decision will be taken on whether it can be re-floated.

But officials have warned that it could be a year before the clean-up operation is complete.

A spokesman for the Marine & Coastguard Agency said: "The whole scale of the event could take up to a year. They're having to heat the oil to pump it out, which is going to be a long process.

"They may have to create a hard-standing area for the containers to be lifted off one by one, and then there's the consideration of the weather. The process is certainly a lengthy one."

There are still 2,291 containers on the ship after 103 were lost. At least 50 were found on the beach, 20 were in shallow water and 33 have not been found.

Branscombe beach has now been cleared of people and is fenced off.


Being an island, and the English Channel being the world's busiest shipping lane, Britain has had more than its fair shair of shipwrecks -

Wrecks of Britain


• Twenty-seven ships have sunk around the Lyme Bay area of Devon in the last 100 years but only two were lost in the last 20 years.

• More than 2,590 vessels have sunk in British and Irish waters in the last 50 years, out of a total of 8,600 in the last century.

• The majority of losses were fishing boats or merchant ships lost during the Second World War.

• The arrival of radar and the end of the war led to a sharp drop in the number of wrecks.

• If a ship is lost but never turns up it is not recorded on official maps.

• The biggest wreck on British record is the 61,000-tonne oil tanker Torrey Canyon in March 1967. It was 974 feet long and carrying 119,000 tons of crude oil when she grounded on the Severn Stones reef off Cornwall, causing a major oil spill and an environmental disaster in England and France.

• Just under 1,000 scavenged goods have been reported to Portland coastguards since 1993, but the figure is likely to soar after the Napoli crisis.

• The goods will be classed as "flotsam" in law as they were lost from a stricken ship.

Previous finds included:

• Three silver brooches and three George III guineas (old British currency) recovered in 1999 from the Indian merchant ship Halsewell, which was driven on to rocks near Swanage in January 1786 with the loss of 160 lives.

• A chronometer (ship's timekeeper), china bed pan, egg cups and china cups recovered in 2000 from the Avalanche, a 1160-tonne fully rigged clipper that sank near Lyme Regis in 1877 with the loss of 89 lives.

• A pocket watch and brass razor case discovered in the hull of the Moidart, a 1,878-tonne armed merchant steamship torpedoed by UB77 in 1918.

• Sources: Maritime and Coastguard Agency & UK Hydrographic Office

The Jurassic Coast

Durdle Door, Dorset

The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site (external - login to view) on the English Channel (external - login to view) coast of southern England (external - login to view). The 95 mile (155km) long site starts at Orcombe Point (external - login to view) near Exmouth (external - login to view) in East Devon (external - login to view) and ends at Old Harry Rocks (external - login to view) near Swanage (external - login to view) in East Dorset (external - login to view). [1] (external - login to view) The Jurassic coast was the first natural World Heritage Site to be designated in the United Kingdom (external - login to view). Its entire length can be walked on the South West Coast Path (external - login to view).[2] (external - login to view)

The Jurassic Coast consists of Triassic (external - login to view), Jurassic (external - login to view) and Cretaceous (external - login to view) cliffs, spanning the Mesozoic (external - login to view) Era, documenting 180 million years of geological (external - login to view) history. The site contains a number of unique geological features and shows excellent examples of different landforms, including the natural arch (external - login to view) at Durdle Door (external - login to view), the cove (external - login to view) and limestone folding (external - login to view) at Lulworth Cove (external - login to view) and an island, the Isle of Portland (external - login to view). Chesil Beach (external - login to view) is a fine example of both a tombolo (external - login to view) and a storm beach (external - login to view). The site has stretches of both concordant (external - login to view) and discordant (external - login to view) coastlines. Due to the quality of the varied geology, the site is the subject of international field studies (external - login to view). This area was home to Mary Anning (external - login to view), a Paleontologist (external - login to view) who studied the fossils of the coastline around Lyme Regis and discovered the first complete Ichthyosaur (external - login to view) fossil.

Some Jurassic Coast towns -

Abbotsbury (external - login to view)
Bridport (external - login to view)
Budleigh Salterton (external - login to view)
Charmouth (external - login to view)Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre (external - login to view)
Exmouth (external - login to view)
Lulworth (external - login to view)
Lyme Regis (external - login to view)
Seaton (external - login to view)
Sidmouth (external - login to view)
Swanage (external - login to view)
West Bay (external - login to view)
Weymouth (external - login to view)

Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 25th, 2007 at 07:14 AM..