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Remote island off Cornwall strewn with elastic bands

Remote island off Cornwall strewn with elastic bands

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 11:07am 29th October 2019. (Updated at 8:52pm 29th October 2019)

An uninhabited island off the coast of Cornwall has ended up strewn with elastic bands.

Mullion Island off the Lizard Peninsula is so remote, you need a permit to visit.

Rangers who care for the colony were initially baffled by the discovery.

However, the National Trust now believes that the bands were mistaken for worms by roosting seabirds.

Elastic bands at Mullion Island
A remote island off the Cornish coast has been found strewn with elastic bands. Photo: National Trust

Experts found large numbers of tan, yellow and green elastic bands in amongst pellets, regurgitated by gulls.

They say small bundles of green netting were also uncovered, often mistaken for food floating on the water's surface.

"Ingested plastic and rubber is another factor in a long list of challenges which our gulls and other seabirds must contend with just to survive.

"Despite being noisy and boisterous and seemingly common, gulls are on the decline. 

"They're already struggling with changes to fish populations and disturbance to nesting sites - and eating elastic bands and fishing waste does nothing to ease their plight.

"Places like Mullion Island should be sanctuaries for our seabirds, so it's distressing to see them become victims of human activity".

Rachel Holder, National Trust

Elastic bands at Mullion Island
The National Trust believes the bands were mistaken for worms by roosting seabirds. Photo: National Trust

Despite public access to the isolated site being forbidden, the trust says the effects of human influence are becoming more evident.

The elastic bands are believed to have come from nearby horticultural fields, where they are used to tie together bunches of cut flowers.

The Trust is calling on businesses to consider how they dispose of plastic, latex and other materials that could cause harm to wildlife.

It warns gull populations are on the decline, with numbers of great black-backed gulls having fallen by 30% in recent years.

"We first noticed the bands on a monitoring visit during the breeding season and were puzzled why there were so many and how they'd got there.

"To save disturbing the nesting birds, we made a special trip over in the autumn to clear the litter. 

"Within just an hour we'd collected thousands of bands and handfuls of fishing waste.

"The gull breeding season was disappointingly poor in 2019 and these hidden human pressures are doing nothing to help our seabirds".

Mark Grantham, West Cornwall Ringing Group

The National Trust and West Cornwall Ringing Group are continuing to work together to monitor populations of seabirds on the island, and where possible, remove debris from the nesting sites.

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