Climate change has halved Scottish seabird population in last 25 years, report reveals

Arctic terns are among the seabird species worst hit. Picture: PA
Arctic terns are among the seabird species worst hit. Picture: PA
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SEABIRD populations in Scotland are continuing to fall dram­atically, according to a new report published by Scottish Natural Heritage yesterday.

• Environmental factors such as climate change and adverse weather conditions are affecting seabird populations, warn Scottish Natural Heritage

• Over a 25-year period, seabird populations have dropped by more than half in Scotland

From 1986 to 2011, the numbers of seabirds breeding in Scotland dropped by around 53 per cent, continuing a downward trend over recent years.

The worst-hit species included the Arctic skua, down 74 per cent, Arctic tern, which fell by 72 per cent, and the black-legged kittiwake, down by 66 per cent.

However, while nine of the 11 species reviewed were in serious decline, two seabird species – the black guillemot and northern fulmar – remained stable.

A range of factors has been blamed, including food shortages linked to a drop in the number of fish whose numbers have reduced because of rising sea temperatures.

Predation by non-native

species, such as mink, was another issue, although efforts to control them were working, SNH added.

Rory Crawford, seabird policy officer with RSPB Scotland, said the report backed its own findings and he urged ministers to do more.

He said: “Although the nature conservation measures in the Marine (Scotland) Act are a brilliant step forward … seabirds have been largely ignored in the process of identifying protected areas … RSPB Scotland strongly encourages the Scottish Government to ensure that steps are taken to protect seabirds.”