Volunteers have also been active in removing the polyester film from Porth Hellick and other beaches. This process will have to continue for some time and we hope that people will go on with their help. The problem posed by the polyester is enormous with less than two per cent coming ashore so far. The threat to the marine life around the islands far outweighs the original concerns regarding the oil from the Cita. The owners of the vessel have consistently failed to acknowledge the damage being caused by the pollution and have not responded to the urgency of the situation. Any rolls of the film remaining on the seabed after the summer would certainly be broken up before divers could recommence diving operations in the spring.
The Trust was never conceived or funded to deal with the sort of emergency posed by the aftermath of the Cita, but the fact is, that we have had to become involved, if only to protect the Islands' environment, by attempting to remove the material causing the pollution. As well as the financial implications, the Trust has no legal ownership of the rolls of film, and no obligation to recover them, as they are on the seabed which is outside the boundary of the Trust's responsibility. This creates a huge dilemma, with no agency admitting liability. The Trust has been forced to lead a rescue plan to save the marine life from being destroyed. It seems extraordinary that only oil is perceived as sufficiently important to warrant official intervention and that there is no mechanism to force the polluter to undertake vital emergency measures, to prevent what could become a greater damage.
A rescue plan is now in force to raise as many of the rolls of film as possible. The scheme is part funded by the Trust with help from the Duchy of Cornwall, English Nature, Countryside Commission, the Council and RSPB. The contract has gone to local salvors whose knowledge of the site and interest in Scilly will aid the programme. The first phase of the operation is to raise rolls from three containers already located, where it is hoped to recover up to one hundred and fifty rolls. Phase two will be to locate and recover the film from the remaining two containers and the final phase will be to dispose of the film which has been recovered. In all the total cost could be as high as £40,000.
After only one week of diving some sixty rolls have been brought to the surface and the Duchy of Cornwall have provided a storage site until the disposal problem is solved. The quantity of film already recovered, is nearly enough to cover the whole of the Garrison. Each roll is over two miles in length and every one removed from the seabed will make a significant saving in the possible effects it can have upon the marine life of the islands.
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