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New report confirms Scotland's seabird decline - 06-NOV-2012 : Press Release Details


New report confirms Scotland's seabird decline


A new report by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) confirms results from previous years showing that Scotland's seabird numbers have continued to decline, although there are some species that have fared better than others.

The report uses data collected by volunteers and professionals from a sample of breeding colonies around Scotland. It shows that, from 1986 to 2011, the numbers of seabirds breeding in Scotland has dropped by around 53%.

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 have remained stable (black guillemot and northern fulmar).

The continuing decreases have been linked to a range of factors such as food shortages, weather conditions and predation by non-native species such as brown rats and mink. The number of small shoaling fish, which are an important food source for many seabirds, may have fallen. These fish are probably being affected by rising sea temperatures because of climate change, as well as other factors.

A range of measures has been put in place to help combat pressures on the seabirds. Voluntary reductions in sandeel fisheries means that very little if any sandeel fishing now takes place within the foraging range of kittiwakes, a species which has seen a particularly sharp drop in numbers in recent years. The control of non-native predators, such as the brown rat and the American mink, has also been carried out on various parts of the Scottish coastline and islands and is now starting to show some benefits, with terns re-colonising some areas. The Scottish Government's Marine Bill also includes measures to improve marine nature conservation to safeguard and protect Scotland's unique habitats.

Susan Davies, SNH's Director of Policy & Advice, 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's seabirds are internationally important with around four million breeding seabirds of 24 species. The recent drop in numbers follows two decades of occasional years of poor breeding but poor years have happened more often and with more severity since 2000.

This SNH report was prepared using data from the Seabird Monitoring Programme. The Seabird Monitoring Programme is a partnership project, led and co-ordinated by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and involving a range of conservation partners.


Media queries

Contact SNH media officer, Vicki Mowat, on 0131 316 2659 or (Tues-Fri) or the SNH main press office on 01463 725 021 (Mon).

Airson na meadhanan GÓidhlig cuiribh fios gu / For Gaelic media enquiries contact:

Emily Edwards, SNH Inverness, 01463 725 148, View SNH's Gaelic Langauge Plan, approved by B˛rd na GÓidhlig, at

Notes for Editors:

The Seabirds in Scotland Trend Note can be downloaded at Trend Notes are factual summaries based on research data relating to trends and changes in our natural heritage, written in a simple, straightforward style

The Scottish Seabird Indicator is part of a suite of biodiversity indicators (, which are used to assess the state of Scotland's biodiversity.

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's advisor on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help everyone understand, value, and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information on SNH, please visit our website at SNH media is also now on Twitter at

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological features and sustaining natural systems. JNCC delivers the UK and international responsibilities of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. Visit the website at

Author: Vicki Mowat
Contact: SNH Press Office