Friday, 29 July 2011

Gannet Guilt

A few posts back on this blog and you'll see I spoke about how many of our gull species have benefitted from Accidental Nature. In their case, largely by us humans providing a food source either from fishing boats or landfill sites. For the species as a whole this has benefitted them, and this idea that a whole species can benefit from accidental nature is a common theme. This means that on balance most individual in a population are benefitting, but at the same time, there will moments when individuals do not benefit from Accidental Nature - and this was very evident for another seafaring bird species yesterday.

I have no doubt that Gannets have had one or two free meals from following fishing boats and taking discards. On the whole gannets as a species have probably benefited from Accidental Nature. But, out walking the dog yesterday I came across the poor soul pictured here. The bird clearly has some kind of fishing tackle wrapped around his bill, clearly it has divided at great speed to catch a fish in a net, or on the end of a line and it's bill has got caught up. What's more, if you look closely you'll notice the lower bill has actually been snapped in half. This bird is a casualty of Accidental Nature.

I tried to rescue it, rather like we rescued the seal at the weekend. But the bird could still fly and stepping foot within 20 meters of it sent it flying back out to sea. I watched it drift back in to the beach over the next few minutes. desperate to rest on shore. It was clearly exhausted, unable to feed because of the rope and line around its bill. It's only chance of survival would be to be caught and taken to a rescue centre, but this was not going to happen, not until it was too tired to fly. And even then, with a broken bill, once rescued I suspect it would never make it back to the wild and perhaps the kindest thing to do would be to put it down.

I felt terribly guilty that i couldn't help this gannet. I just had to walk away and leave it. The RSPCA tried to help but as far as I know they were unable to get any closer to it. This bird had a terrible accident and will likely die a long slow death. It would be easy to get angry at the fishing industry and wish it didn't exists  - but, as sad as that is, I will continue to consider that Accidental Nature may well be helping Gannets as a whole species because the easy food source fishery discard gives them outweighs the horrific injuries to this one bird. With Accidental Nature you always have to think of the bigger picture. Yes, all fishermen should be careful with keeping tackle out of the way of birds, but to stop fishing could be harmful in the long term.

This link shows a scientific research project looking at Gannets and Fisheries discard and how the birds who represent a success story in recent years may begin to suffer with the new regulations banning discard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Horrible, horrible, horrible