Letter: Seabirds not key factor in poor rating

No hard evidence to blame seabird community for pollution of South Bay.
No hard evidence to blame seabird community for pollution of South Bay.

The much-maligned seabird community is now getting a share of the blame for impaired bathing water quality in the South Bay but there is no hard evidence that this is justified.

Indeed the 2016 Hull University report commissioned by the Environment Agency found there is no correlation between seabird numbers and high bacteria counts. In fact the conclusion appeared to exonerate seabirds of blame as it found there were far more seabirds in the North Bay which has achieved the Blue Flag award of Excellence of bathing water quality compared to the South Bay with fewer birds receiving the poor rating!

The Environment Agency October 2017 report on an investigation into bacterial communities in bathing waters and associated sites around Scarborough, 2016, authored by Jonathan Porter of the National Laboratory Service, did not obtain any seabird DNA from a seawater sample.

Instead a sample of seabird faeces was scraped from the beach and added to 100ml of sterile water. The rest is supposition and, to emphasise this, Jonathan Porter, states: “The speculative nature of this section of the report must be reiterated again at this point; several assumptions have been listed above, any or all of which may be considered unrealistic. Numerous other criticisms may also be justified.”

It need hardly be added that there are seabirds in many coastal resorts which do not suffer impaired bathing water quality.

We are surely entering the realms of pure farce to suggest that the DNA of the occasional seabird droppings in the South Bay can be found on a regular basis if at all. That being so – to suggest they can be proved to have any significant impact on bathing water quality is fanciful or, if preferred, the use of Jonathan Porter’s words “speculative” and “unrealistic”.

Those focused on solving the pollution problems should, therefore, be spared the seabird distraction as indeed the seabirds on the present evidence should be spared any blame on this occasion.

Freddie Drabble

Sons of Neptune

Scalby Road

Scarborough