Western Morning News . . . this is Cornwall
Police are investigating the death of hundreds of sea birds which drowned after becoming entangled in fishing nets.
Conservationists say they are “saddened and extremely concerned” by the incident, off the coast of St Ives – the second incidence in a week.
St Ives Harbour
The Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (CIFCA) triggered a unique bylaw last week after 100 birds were killed. A three-week fishing exclusion zone for gill nets was imposed in the bay, backed by fines of up to £50,000.
On Saturday, a further 200 birds were found in a net to the north of the town and others washed up on local beaches.
Paul St Pierre, RSPB Conservation Officer in Cornwall, said guillemots and razorbills were hunting sprats in nets set to catch bass: “Unfortunately conditions have conspired to bring them into greater proximity than normal, with the result that large numbers of birds are being trapped in the nets and drowning.”
Ruth Williams, marine conservation manager at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, called for the “very small” exclusion zone to be widened, adding: “We hope that as part of their investigation and future discussions, the CIFCA may see fit to extend the area covered by this bylaw to give the protection needed to these birds.”
The man who reported the scene, who did not wish to be named, said: “I was surprised to see the nets just west of Porthmeor beach about 100m from the shore in shallow water. I counted 100 birds in one net and 40 in the second – they had just got entangled and bigger gulls were feeding on the dead bodies – not all of them were dead, they couldn’t escape.”
Chief officer for CIFCA Edwin Derriman said fishermen had “misjudged” the tides and left nets for two hours of daylight. He said restricting the setting of nets to the hours of darkness in the short-term was one solution.