It is not unusual that from time to time seabirds are washed ashore covered in substances that apparently have killed them, but that look strange and sometimes potentially dangerous. In the Netherlands, where beaches are intensively and systematically monitored for scientific purposes, these events do not pass unnoticed. Last March seabirds were found in large numbers on the shores of the northwest Dutch coast covered in a substance that looked like glue.They were brought to the Royal NIOZ for further inspection and the NIOZ immediately notified Rijkswaterstaat and the Coast Guard to make them aware of an apparent marine pollution that had taken place somewhere in the nearshore waters. Although these areas were immediately inspected, no source of pollution has yet been found. The glue-like substance was later identified to be polyisobutylene (PIB) a component used for making butyl rubber.
The incident demonstrates the additional value of scientific and rehabilitation organisations working closely together with the authorities to monitor and respond to oil pollution. It often happens that polluted wildlife appears ashore as the first and only indicator of a pollution incident that has taken place offshore. If the authorities are immediately notified, there is not only a chance that the source of the pollution can be found, but also that beaches can be closed to protect the public from getting into contact with the pollution that may wash ashore.