Leader comment: A hopeful sign for Scotland’s seabirds

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After years of falling populations, the “slight increase” in the numbers of Arctic terns, northern gannets and other seabirds around Scotland’s coasts is good news – and, potentially, not only for them.

While an array of different factors determine the numbers of each individual species, seabirds effectively act as monitors of the marine environment.

As a general rule, if the seas are teaming with life, they will do well, but when times are tough under the water, they will suffer.

So the rise could be mirrored in fish and other prey species. However, the new statistics from Scottish Natural Heritage also showed continuing declines for great skuas, guillemots and herring gulls and the organisation warned the long-term trend was still a downward one.

READ MORE: RSPB warns of ‘apocalyptic’ seabird decline in Shetland

So it is also possible that this hopeful sign will turn out to be little more than a statistical blip.

Climate change, pollution and predation by non-native species like American mink are all problems for seabirds that humans can do something about. And we should, for many reasons, including that we would miss them if they were to die out.

READ MORE: Majority of seabirds are eating plastic, Scots scientists warn