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Seabirds in the North Sea demobilized and killed by polyisobutylene (C4H8)n(PIB)
Camphuysen, K.C.J.; Barreveld, H.; Dahlmann, G.; van Franeker, J.A. (1999). Seabirds in the North Sea demobilized and killed by polyisobutylene (C4H8)n(PIB). Mar. Pollut. Bull. 38(12): 1171-1176.
In: Marine Pollution Bulletin. Macmillan: London. ISSN 0025-326X; e-ISSN 1879-3363, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    seabirds; strandings; operational discharges; polyisobutylene; (C4H8)n; Fulmarus glacialis; Uria aalge; Melanitta nigra; MARPOL

Authors  Top 
  • Camphuysen, K.C.J., more
  • Barreveld, H.
  • Dahlmann, G.
  • van Franeker, J.A.

    This paper reports on a mass stranding of seabirds in the North Sea in December 1998. Hundreds of birds were washed ashore alive in Zeeland (SW Netherlands), covered in a whitish, sticky substance, and were transported to a rehabilitation centre. About 10 days later, more (dead) casualties washed ashore further to the north on Texel and along the mainland coast, again covered in a glue-like substance. Common guillemots Uria aalge, northern fulmars Fulmarusglacialis and common scoters Melanitta nigra were the most numerous birds affected in this incident. Both strandings were temporarily (10 days) and geographically separated (ca. 120 km apart), but were apparently caused by a single source of pollution. The meteorology at the time was consistent with the course of a single incident. At least 1100 seabirds were affected by this substance, soon identified as polyisobutylene (C4H8)n. PIB is known as a non-toxic, non-aggressive substance. Volunteers cleaning the birds in the rehabilitation centre reported serious discomfort and dizziness and the soft parts of the PIB-affected birds found dead (bill, eye, throat, feet, webs) appeared to dissolve in a few days time. Both effects cannot be attributed to PIB, and are therefore unexplained. Although the dumping of PIB in the marine environment is not explicitly prohibited under MARPOL, the effects on wildlife observed are enough to plead for counter-measures.

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