Seabirds on a decline, across the globe

At sea, commercial fishing has depleted fish stocks, an important food source for seabirds. On land, the introduction o

Published: 09th March 2012 10:51 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 06:32 PM   |  A+A-

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The over-exploitation of one species of animals for human consumption could lead to the extinction of an apparently unrelated animal - poaching of herbivores like deer in the forest indirectly causing the death of hungry tigers being the classic example.

 The latest review by the BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, published on Thursday, says that commercial fisheries are posing a very serious threat to seabirds.

 The status of the world’s seabirds has deteriorated rapidly over recent decades and several species and populations are now perilously close to extinction, says the BirdLife International review. The albatross family is especially imperilled, with 17 of the 22 species currently threatened with extinction.

 ‘’This new data details the rapid deterioration of creatures that provide a crucial window onto the condition of the oceans,” says Jean-Christophe Vie, Deputy Director, IUCN Global Species Programme.

 The review reveals that seabirds are now more threatened than any other group of birds. Of the 346 seabird species, 97 (28 per cent) are ‘globally threatened’, and a further 10 per cent are listed as ‘near-threatened’. Almost half of all seabird species are known or suspected to be experiencing population decline.

 Human activities lie at the heart of the staggering decline of seabird populations. At sea, commercial fishing has depleted fish stocks, an important food source for seabirds, and caused the death of innumerable seabirds through accidental by-catch. On land, the introduction of invasive species has destroyed many breeding colonies.

There may still be time to reverse these declines and the review is clear on the actions that need to be taken. Conservationists want the sites where seabirds congregate to be protected.

 BirdLife, which works in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has identified many ‘Important Bird Areas’ (IBAs) for seabirds and the idea is to develop a network of such marine locations and protect it.

 In order to stem the disappearance of seabird populations, BirdLife also insists that invasive species, specifically rodents, be removed from major seabird colonies.

Several successful restoration projects have already taken place, and BirdLife is currently collaborating with the University of California, Santa Cruz, to compile a list of priority sites for future eradication operations.

 Nature has always had a say in species survival. When one species takes up the resources meant for sharing among all life, it would be only a matter of time before that gigantic consumer is wiped out from the face of the planet. Just as it happened with the dinosaurs.

 For more discussions on species survival, follow the IUCN World Conservation Congress to be held in Jeju, Republic of Korea, from September 6 to 15 this year.

(Sci-bug takes you across the world, from test-tubes and petri-dishes to the farthest corners of the planet and beyond, wherever science makes interesting findings. Keep track of the bug, every Saturday. And do not forget to give us a feedback on


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