Protection needed for seabirds

22 Mar 2013
RSPB is renewing calls to protect seabird populations in EU waters

RSPB is renewing calls to protect seabird populations in EU waters

Following a new study about how the recent EU ban on fish discards could have a significant short term impact on some seabirds, conservationists are calling for urgent marine protection in European waters.

The research, which was carried out by scientists from the UK’s Plymouth University in collaboration with UK charity RSPB, revealed that while the new EU policy is unlikely to pose a serious threat to most seabirds, temporary action is needed to protect habitats and ensure a sufficient supply of food is available.

A number of seabird species, including great skuas and large gulls, have grown accustomed to feeding on discards but scientists say they should be able to switch to alternative food sources easily.

However, it has been acknowledged there is a risk that some may switch to preying on other seabirds. Concern has also been expressed for the endangered Balearic shearwater, which makes significant use of discards.

The RSPB is renewing calls for Marine Protected Areas to ensure that seabird foraging areas and prey populations are able to cope with an increased demand for wild caught food.

Dr Euan Dunn, head of marine policy, RSPB, said: “The loss of discards could pile the pressure on the UK’s seabirds already depleted by climate change-driven changes to their marine food chain. It underlines the need to build as much resilience as we can into their wider protection both on land and at sea.”

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