Seabirds are more threatened than any other group of birds. That is according to the findings of a major new review published in the scientific journal Bird Conservation International.
The review is based on BirdLife International’s data and assessment for the IUCN Red List.
Of the 346 seabird species, 97 (28 percent) are globally threatened and a further 10 percent are close to being so. Nearly half of all seabird species are known or suspected to be experiencing population decreases.
The albatross family is especially imperiled with 17 of the 22 species currently threatened with extinction.
Human activities lie behind these decreases. At sea, commercial fisheries have degraded fish stocks and caused the deaths of innumerable seabirds through accidental bycatch, whilst on land the introduction of invasive species has extirpated many breeding colonies.
Invasive species, especially introduced rodents, must be removed from major seabird colonies. Several successful restoration projects have already taken place.
For example, South Africa successfully removed cats from Marion Island which, at 294 km2, remains the largest island globally that has been successfully cleared of cats. The paper details priority sites for new eradication efforts.
Of the 11 albatross species that regularly occur in South Africa, 10 are threatened with extinction, including the critically endangered Tristan Albatross, which breeds only at the remote Gough Island in the South Atlantic.
South Africa continues to lead global efforts to reduce seabird bycatch in fisheries. Dr Ross Wanless, Seabird division manager at BirdLife South Africa, says “the hake trawl fishery and tuna and swordfish longliners have worked with BirdLife South Africa’s Albatross Task Force for six years.
Over this time they have tested and refined measures and technologies to prevent seabird deaths. As a result, national bycatch rates are greatly reduced.
The tuna longliners, for example, have reduced seabird deaths by around 80 percent since 2006”.