ANIMAL lovers have demanded a ban on the oil additive which killed hundreds of seabirds off the Dorset coast.

The Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) has backed calls by counterparts in Devon and Cornwall for polyisobutene (PIB) be reclassified by the International Maritime Organisation to prohibit discharges at sea.

The plea comes after a major maritime disaster involving seabirds in Dorset in early February but also after more casualties were washed up in Devon and Cornwall this week.

DWT spokesman Nicky Hoar said: “We would certainly agree with the other wildlife trusts in calling for this re-classification.

“The recent events and the fact that this is still happening now have made it really imperative that this is looked at.”

She added: “It should not be happening. Species are already under pressure.

“It is the last thing that they need. “It could well be affecting marine life in the food chain. We don't know the full extent of the problem yet.”

Some 300 birds were washed up on the Dorset coast - including many at Chesil Cove - in February covered in a sticky substance identified as PIB.

Hundreds of dead and distressed birds have also been found washed up in Devon and Cornwall during the last week.

Investigators have been unable to trace the source of the PIB slicks which affected the birds.

Although PIB, an oil additive which has a chemical mixture ranging from oils to solids, is considered to present a hazard to the marine environment, it is currently legal to discharge it in certain quantities directly into the sea.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust has called for a change in the legislation to prevent discharges into the sea.

The trust has called for people to help record the number of birds washed up and where.

The DWT wants people to call the RSPCA if any live birds are washed up but not to handle the creatures.

The RSPB has also backed the campaign.

Tony Whitehead, of RSPB South West, said: “These recent incidents could be the result of illegal discharges. But equally, they could be the result of legal discharges.”

Any dead birds should not be picked up but should he reported to DWT's Chesil Beach centre on 01305 206191.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it had been unable to trace the source of the recent spill.

Anyone who finds an oiled seabird should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.

Hundreds of seabirds - including many guillemots - were killed in the slick off the Dorset coast in late January and early February.

Some estimates put the number killed at 250 although many more were saved and clean by dedicated teams from the RSPCA at animal care centres.

The surviving birds were later released from vantage points along the coast, including Portland Bill.