OIL SPILL LATEST: Advice for dog walkers and fishermen as RSPCA are put on standby
A group has been set up to protect animals in the wake of oil washing up on beaches across the Fylde coast.
Workers have removed tonnes of waste, made up of oil, sand, and stone, from beaches in Blackpool, Bispham, Cleveleys, Fleetwood and Knott End since the spill began to wash up on Sunday.
The incident, which started at an off-shore storage tanker in the Irish Sea, has led to concern for marine and wildlife in the area, and the RSPCA are now 'ready to provide a response to deal with oiled wildlife', a spokesman for Blackpool Council said.
Meanwhile, dog walkers have been urged to avoid the beach until all the oil and affected sand is cleared away, and fishermen have been told their haul may be 'tainted'.
The new Environment Group has representatives from a number of organisations, including the Environment Agency, Public Health England, Food Standards Agency, and the local authorities.
"The Environment Group identifies wildlife and habitats that are vulnerable or particular sensitive to the pollution and also to the response activities being carried out," the spokesman said.
"Aerial surveillance flights from fixed wing aircraft and helicopter, as well as surveys on foot are being conducted to determine the presence of any wildlife being affected by the incident, or at risk of becoming affected.
"The RSPCA have also been notified of this incident and are ready to provide a response to deal with oiled wildlife."
A number of dead birds were seen on the beach earlier this week, while a dead porpoise was investigated but found to have died before the spill happened.
But a town hall official said there had been no animals affected by the oil spill 'at this stage'.
All eyes will be on the tide over the next few days to see what, if anything, washes ashore.
Former animal lecturer at Myerscough College John Vale said: “It could affect the whole ecosystem. Any spill is too big.” Mr Vale, who lives in Blackpool, said the oil could kill off basic microscopic life, which in turn could impact on larger marine animals.
But he warned wintering birds in the Wyre estuary could also be affected, and said: “Fortunately we have beaches you can get vehicles on and get rid of the oil.
“If it’s not, and it’s already flowing into the estuary, it could severely affect the winter population of birds.”
Meanwhile, the Veterinary Poisons Information Service has recommended dog walkers should avoid beaches until the clean up operation is over.
"If walking in areas where material has washed up, dogs should be walked on a lead," it added. "If owners suspect their dog has eaten some crude oil, they should not attempt to make their dog sick and if concerned should seek advice from their vet.
"Owners should contact their vet if their dog is vomiting or coughing. If there is any oil it should be washed off promptly using a detergent such as shampoo or washing up liquid.
"If the dog has significant contamination of skin and hair, owners should seek advice from their vet."
Those washing their pet should wear gloves. Oil on the skin should be washed with soap and water for 10 minutes. Affected clothing should be removed.
Those feeling unwell should seek medical attention.
Anglers on the coast 'should be safe to consume any catch', a spokesman for Wyre Council said.
"The main risk would be taint, which is quality rather than safety. As such, it may taste unpleasant."