Se­abird pop­u­la­tions at risk

● Fish­ing, pol­lu­tion and habi­tat de­struc­tion cause num­bers to plum­met by 70%

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - NEWS - BY PAUL WARD

Seabirds are at risk due to the com­pe­ti­tion they face from the fish­ing in­dus­try for food, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Univer­sity of Aberdeen.

Ex­perts said there has been a 70% de­cline in se­abird pop­u­la­tions over seven decades due to a com­bi­na­tion of the fish­ing in­dus­try, pol­lu­tion and habi­tat de­struc­tion.

Sci­en­tists looked at two time­frames – 1970-1989 and 1990-2010 – to as­sess the de­gree of com­pe­ti­tion seabirds faced for prey species such as an­chovy, sar­dines, mack­erel, squid, krill and crus­taceans.

The team then es­ti­mated the an­nual con­sump­tion of those prey species for 276 se­abird species based on pop­u­la­tion counts and mod­els and com­pared it to the an­nual catches by fish­ing boats. The sci­en­tists found that the to­tal an­nual se­abird con­sump­tion de­creased from 70 to 57 mil­lions of tonnes be­tween 1970-1990 and 1990-2010, while an­nual fish­ery catches in­creased from 59 to 65 mil­lions of tonnes over the same pe­riod.

Dr Aurore Pon­chon, who co-led the study, said: “Our re­search shows, that de­spite the de­cline of the world se­abird com­mu­nity be­tween 1970-1989 and 1990-2010, com­pe­ti­tion with fish­eries re­mained sus­tained. This com­pe­ti­tion was even en­hanced in al­most half the oceans.

“This en­hanced com­pe­ti­tion, in ad­di­tion to other fac­tors such as pol­lu­tion, pre­da­tion by in­va­sive species on chicks, the de­struc­tion and changes in their habi­tat by hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties and en­vi­ron­men­tal changes caused by cli­mate change, puts seabirds at risk, mak­ing them the most threat­ened bird group, with a 70% de­cline over the past seven decades.

“This study calls for an im­proved man­age­ment of the world’s fish­eries to alleviate com­pe­ti­tion pres­sure on se­abird pop­u­la­tions.”

The study also in­volved sci­en­tists from the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia and the French Na­tional Cen­tre for Sci­en­tific Re­search.

“This en­hanced com­pe­ti­tion puts seabirds at risk”

Pho­to­graph by Getty

DI­MIN­ISH­ING: Her­ring gulls, seen here in the Mo­ray Firth, are among those un­der threat.

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