THE ISLES OF SCILLY ENVIRONMENTAL TRUST

Trust staff and members of the Support Group are about to make a visit to St Helens to prepare the Hermitage site in readiness for the Annual Pilgrimage.  This year the service will take place on Sunday 10 August.  We have also had help from volunteers which have included Islanders and young people from the mainland undertaking Work Experience and Duke of Edinburgh awards.  A group of twelve pupils from the Isles of Scilly School, during their activities week, helped at Porth Hellick, the Woolpack Battery and Morning Point.  Their jobs included collecting debris from the Cita, cutting gorse and tending to young trees.  It was excellent to see the effort and enthusiasm they put into the work, continuing in good spirit even when it rained We appreciate all the work carried out by volunteers - indeed without their help it would be difficult to achieve the Trust's commitment to managing the wilderness areas of Scilly.

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.

Andrew Gibson
 
Four Seasonal reminders: 
  • Dog owners can obtain 'Poop Scoops' free of charge from the Tourist Information Office.
  • Cyclists are not allowed to ride on footpaths.
  • The ground is very dry and the risk of fire is extremely high.
  • Also because of the risk of fire, the Trust does not allow beach barbecues without prior permission.
 
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