Overfishing and Climate Change Are Pushing Seabirds Towards Extinction

The deadly one-two punch of overfishing and climate change.

Overfishing and climate change are pushing some of the world’s most iconic seabirds to the brink of extinction, according to a new report.

The study reveals that kittiwakes and gannets are among a number of seabirds that have now joined the red list of under-threat birds drawn up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Dr Ian Burfield, global science coordinator at Birdlife International which carried out the study for IUCN, said the threat to these birds pointed to a wider environmental challenge.

“Birds are well studied and great indicators of the health of the wider environment. A species at higher risk of extinction is a worrying alarm call that action needs to be taken now.”

The study found that overfishing and changes in the Pacific and north Atlantic caused by climate change have affected the availability of sand eels which black-legged kittiwakes feed on during the breeding season.

This has caused “disastrous chick survival rates”, it says, with nesting kittiwake numbers plummeting by 87% since 2000 on the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and by 96% on the Hebridean island of St Kilda.

Photo: JJ Harrison/WIkimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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