The plight of Scottish seabirds

Guillemot adult and juvenile on Clyde

Guillemot adult and juvenile on Clyde

You learn something new every day, and today I learned that a puffin chick is called a puffling (awww …). I found it out when reading this heart-warming article. Other news about the Scottish seabird population has been more heart-rending than heart-warming, as it relates to the huge decline in numbers as a result of yet another disastrous breeding season. The RSPB reports that its coastal reserves have shown that kittiwakes, Arctic terns and Arctic skuas reared almost no chicks to fledging in the far north in 2008. Other affected birds are guillemots, razorbills, and puffins. The cause is believed to relate to a reduction in the availability of small fish with which the birds can feed their chicks. Seabird chicks therefore starve in their nests, or adult birds choose not to breed at all. Lest we all get too depressed, the RSPB are always good at tempering bad news with good, and they also report that seabirds that eat a bigger range of food from a wider area – such as gannets and cormorants – are doing better. Being a glass is half empty type when it comes to environmental news, I find only a small amount of solace in this.

Other than tapping away at a laptop and sharing the woe on the blogosphere, what can be done? Is it too late? Some might say that it is, but I like to think it is not too late to at least make an attempt to turn things around and to help preserve what is left. It takes a village – so how about a village of sea kayakers? I would hazard that most fellow paddlers have, at some level, come to know and appreciate the company of seabirds while out on the waters, therefore, who better to speak up and advocate for our feathered friends? Of course, you don’t have to be a sea kayaker to participate. The RSPB and the Marine Conservation Society have been working hard to promote a Marine Act for Scotland that would protect all Scottish marine wildlife. And if we must speak in the language of government and business, this would also help the Scottish economy, being that Scotland is Europe’s number one wildlife-watching destination. The horrible irony, however, is that some of the measures being proposed to promote renewable energy via marine power (and help avert the climate change that is causing the loss of zooplankton that is in turn causing the loss of small fish) are themselves a potential threat to marine widlife.

The official consultation period for the Marine Bill is over, but that doesn’t stop us from maintaining vigilance and contacting our elected representatives to encourage them to ensure that the marine environment of Scotland, and indeed the UK, is comprehensively protected for future generations – of seabirds and people.

08/02/09 Addendum: Ministers go back on promise to protect UK waters

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