Scotland's seabird numbers continue to decline

Kittiwakes [Pic: RSPB]
Image caption The study showed black-legged kittiwake showed one of the largest declines

Scotland's seabird numbers have continued to decline over the last 25 years a new report by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has confirmed.

The report uses data collected by volunteers and professionals from breeding colonies around the country.

It shows that, from 1986 to 2011, the numbers of seabirds breeding in Scotland has dropped by around 53%.

The continuing decreases have been linked to a range of factors such as food shortages and weather conditions.

Of the 11 species reviewed over the 25-year period, the numbers of nine decreased.

The largest declines were for the Arctic skua, 74%, Arctic tern, 72% and black-legged kittiwake, 66%.

Two seabirds, the black guillemot and northern fulmar, have remained stable.

Unique habitats

A range of measures has been put in place to help combat pressures on the seabirds, including the control of non-native predators, and a voluntary reduction in sandeel fishing.

The Scottish government's Marine Bill also includes measures to improve marine nature conservation to safeguard and protect Scotland's unique habitats.

Susan Davies, from SNH, said: "These results aren't surprising, as they echo results from recent years.

"Thanks to the huge effort from volunteers and professionals, we're now able to monitor seabird numbers much more effectively than in the past.

"The results give even more impetus to continue the actions already in place to improve the situation for seabirds.

"It's vital that we continue to monitor the state of Scotland's seabirds and the marine environment and to use this information to guide future actions."

Scotland has around four million breeding seabirds of 24 species.

The last two decades have had occasional years of poor breeding but has been more frequent since 2000.

Rory Crawford, seabird policy officer with RSPB Scotland, said: "This report from SNH is timely. These declines are in line with what we've seen on our own reserves and this should act as a call to action.

"Seabirds must be better protected at sea and RSPB Scotland strongly encourages the Scottish government to ensure that steps are taken to protect seabirds through Marine Protected Areas before they are consulted on next summer."

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