RSPCA workers clean an oil-covered bird. Photograph: RSPCA/PA
Thousands of seabirds may have been harmed by a pollutant in the waters off the south coast of the UK, conservationists warned on Friday.
Tests by the Environment Agency have established that the problem has been caused by some sort of refined mineral oil, not palm oil as had been suspected.
It is not known where the substance has come from or exactly what it is, but the number of birds and wide area affected could indicate a spill of oil being transported through the Channel.
Hundreds of birds have been found coated in the substance. Some have died and washed up on beaches from Hampshire to Cornwall, while others have been rescued and are being cleaned up. The bird charity the RSPB has branded the incident a "disaster" and some experts fear thousands of birds could be suffering out at sea.
I'm willing to bet the owner of some tanker ship that had been transporting mineral oil didn't want to pay for safely flushing out the storage holds of his vessel, so he did it himself, at night, on the high sea. I really hope this can be traced and the guilty made an example of, as a preventative.