Seabirds and Seaduck

 
JNCC seeks to ensure that an adequate information base exists to inform decision-making regarding policies for biodiversity conservation and to support existing legal obligations (and to enable other stakeholders to meet theirs) in respect of the seabird and seaduck resource in UK land and sea areas. It does this by conducting and commissioning research and surveillance of birds at breeding colonies and also at sea. 
 
Seabirds and seaduck comprise those species of bird that depend wholly or mainly on the marine environment for their survival. They spend the majority of their lives at sea, exploiting its surface and the water column to varying depths for food. Most of these species come ashore only to breed.
 
There are more than seven million breeding seabirds in the UK, composed of 25 species in eight families (Procellariidae - petrels and shearwaters; Hydrobatidae - storm-petrels; Sulidae - gannets; Phalacrococidae - cormorants and shags; Stercoraridae - skuas, Laridae - gulls; Sternidae - terns; and Alcidae - auks). A further 13 species or more regularly occur in UK waters, but breed elsewhere. Thirteen species of seabird that breed in the UK are present in internationally important numbers.

 

Inshore UK waters host large numbers of wintering seaduck, divers (Gaviidae) and grebes (Podicepididae). UK populations of seaduck include the common eider Somateria mollissima, scoter Melanitta sp., greater scaup Aythya marila, long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalils, common goldeneye Bucephala clangula and sawbills Mergus sp.
 

Population Trends

 

View the latest population trends and causes of change among breeding seabird populations (and view archived trends). 

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Seabird population trends have been used by UK Government as a ‘sustainable development strategy indicator’ and there was an increase in population size during the 1970s, 80s and early 1990s. However, in recent years, seabird breeding success in some parts of the UK has been very low and the total number of seabirds breeding in the UK is estimated to have declined by around 600k, or 9%, between 2000 and 2008.  Not all species have declined, but those showing the steepest declines since the mid 1990s are those that feed on small shoaling fish such as sandeels. Seabird breeding success and over-winter survival has been lowered by a shortage of this food source, caused by climate driven changes to the food chain. These impacts are likely to worsen as the UK’s seas continue to warm up. To mitigate these impacts, it is possible to reduce other substantial pressures from fishing and from non-native species that predate seabird eggs and young, for example American mink and brown rat.

 

Conservation

Seabird and seaduck conservation is an important aspect of UK implementation of the EC Birds Directive, which concerns the conservation of wild birds and their habitats. With one exception (black guillemot), all seabird and seaduck species must be accorded protection within Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

 

The UK is also a signatory of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), established under the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. Parties to AEWA are called upon to engage in species and habitat conservation, management of human activities, research and monitoring, and education and information.

 

The role of JNCC

JNCC seeks to ensure that an adequate information base exists to inform decision-making regarding policies for biodiversity conservation and to support existing legal obligations (and to enable other stakeholders to meet theirs) in respect of the seabird and seaduck resource in UK land and sea areas. It does this by conducting and commissioning research and surveillance of birds at breeding colonies and also at sea.

 

In addition to marine bird work in and around the UK and Europe, JNCC carries out and advises on seabird research and survey in other parts of the world, notably the Overseas Territories, for example the Falkland Islands.