Menu

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: Seabird

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) anticipates that puffins will benefit from the closure last month of the industrial fishery for sand eels in the North Sea and Scottish waters.

The closure of the fishery from March 26th is coming into place in time for the breeding season for puffins, the RSPB says.

“Sandeels, a main source of food for puffins and their chicks, are a vital link in the food chain for seabirds, as well as some fish species and sea mammals, yet their numbers have been rapidly declining due to climate change and overfishing,” it says.

“The charismatic birds have already been delighting visitors in recent weeks as they arrive back at Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland, RSPB South Stack, North Wales, RSPB Sumburgh Head in Shetland, and at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Britain’s largest mainland seabird colony,” it says.

Dave O’Hara, senior site manager at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, said it is “home to one of the UK's top wildlife spectacles”.

“But these populations of seabirds are at the forefront of the climate emergency, and they are in significant decline. Puffins’ resilience is being pushed to the limit, which is why we can breathe a sigh of relief that industrial sandeel fishing in UK waters has now been ended,”he said.”

The most recent *seabird census, Seabirds Count, published in November 2023, suggests that around one in four puffins have been lost across Britain since 2000.

“It's predicted that the UK's puffin population could plunge 90% by 2050 if global warming is unchecked. Facing threats to both their nesting sites and their food supply, the climate crisis is sadly only making things worse for these clowns of the sea,”it says.

Puffins will continue arriving throughout April, staying to raise their pufflings (one egg is laid per puffin), and then leaving at the end of July.

The tiny birds winter out at sea, and are widely dispersed out in the North Sea and wider Atlantic Ocean.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Over three-quarters of seabird species breeding in Ireland have increased, with only two species declining, according to a census just published.

The “Seabirds Count” census shows that Ireland is particularly important for species such as Roseate Tern and European Storm-petrel as 94% and 73% of the total populations breed here.

Roseate Tern, European Storm-petrel and Razorbill are some of the 17 species which have increased over the last 20 years, it says while the Kittiwake and Puffin are in decline.

It says that increasing populations of some seabird species are linked to effective conservation management measures, such as tern-wardening projects.

Seabirds Count, which has been released as a book by wildlife publishers Lynx Edicions, is said to be the most comprehensive seabird census produced to date.

It provides population estimates for the 25 regularly breeding species of Britain, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

The survey took place between 2015 and 2021 and was led by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (UK) with over 20 steering group partners.

BirdWatch Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service were the key partners in Ireland.

It has found that seabirds are “doing well in Ireland with 17 species increasing and only two declining”.

“A similar pattern prevails in Northern Ireland, with four species declining and nine increasing,”it says.

“ This is in contrast to census results across the entire UK and Ireland, which show that 11 of the 21 seabird species, where there is confidence in their trends, have declined since the last census in 1998-2002,” it says.

It notes that results differ significantly by region or country, with “ encouraging trends” in Ireland for species such as the Black-headed Gull and the Arctic Tern.

At the overall census level, the Arctic Tern breeding population is in decline (35%), but the population is considered stable across the island of Ireland.

The Black-headed Gull, which breeds on inland wetlands as well as the coast, has suffered an overall decline of 26%, but this is in contrast with an analysis of Irish data, which shows increases (Ireland 84%; NI 23%, all-island 40%), it says.

Overall, Black-legged Kittiwake has declined by 42% since the last census, but the population in Northern Ireland “bucks this trend” and shows an increase of 33%, it says.

“Further south in Ireland, the population of Kittiwake is in decline (36%),” it says.

“Little appears to have changed in the colonies where they breed, so these declines are driven by changes in the marine ecosystem upon which they depend,” it suggests.

“Other main drivers for declining populations vary between species and even location, however, there are some prevalent themes,” it says.

These include predation by American mink, which may have been released onto or swum to seabird colony islands, and brown rats, which may have stowed away on boats.

“Climate change is another important factor. Adverse weather conditions are causing nest sites to be swept away and making foraging conditions more difficult,”it says.

“ Increased water temperatures reduce the availability of important food such as small fish, for example, sand eels and sprats, which leads to seabird parents not finding enough food,” it notes.

“This could be exacerbated by fish stock depletion by commercial fisheries, meaning that there is not enough food to go around during the important breeding season,” it says.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

Seabirds are targeting fishing boats far more often for food, a new international study involving University College Cork (UCC) scientists has found.

UCC scientists worked with colleagues from Norway, Scotland and Iceland to track over 250 northern fulmars from across the North Atlantic over the last 16 years.

The team involved in the SEATRACK programme, as it is called, published their findings in Current Biology.

Lead author Jamie Darby of UCC’s MaREI centre, said the team used tiny 2.5g loggers mounted on the birds’ legs to record light, including artificial lights at night.

“Because fulmars can feed at any time, day or night, light signals recorded at night can reliably be attributed to fishing boats, particularly in heavily fished areas,” Darby explained.

"We looked at the prevalence of light recordings at night to determine how frequently seabirds were encountering vessels and how that changed over time,” he said.

They discovered that fulmars breeding across the wider North Atlantic area are increasingly encountering fishing boats, despite fishing fleet sizes decreasing over the same time period.

This suggests that encounters are not driven by increased numbers of vessels, but by birds targeting boats more often, the scientists concluded.

Previous research had shown that other seabird species have tended to switch to scavenging around vessels for catch or bait or both when their own food sources are depleted.

Mark Jessopp, also of UCC and co-author of the paper, said that “one possibility is that finding their usual food has become more difficult due to overfishing or habitat degradation”.

"Fulmars that didn’t frequently follow vessels actually migrated further and spent more time looking for food than those that relied more heavily on vessels, highlighting the advantage of following vessels to obtain predictable food,”he said.

The scientists noted that the “downside” of such behaviour is that the seabirds are increasingly becoming “bycatch”, due to being accidentally caught or entangled in fishing gears.

Bycatch is one of the main impacts on seabird populations, many of which are globally threatened, the scientists have said.

“This study provides further motivation to solve the bycatch issue and make fishing gears safer for marine life,”Darby said.

The full paper, entitled “Decadal increase in vessel interactions by a scavenging pelagic seabird across the North Atlantic”, can be found here.

Published in Marine Wildlife

An area in the northwest Irish Sea is to be designated as Ireland’s largest ever protected zone for birds.

The proposed new special protection area (SPA) will cover over 230,000 hectares and will increase Ireland’s percentage of marine waters protected under the EU Birds and Habitats directive to over 9 per cent.

That’s according to Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) director general Niall Ó Donnchú.

Mr Ó Donnchú declared the designation as a “milestone” for the “protection of Ireland’s marine biodiversity”.

The new SPA adjoins twelve existing SPAs already designated along the coast in this area, he says.

The publication of detailed information and maps for the site brings “certainty and clarity to a long-mooted proposal for protections for marine birds in this area”, they state.

“This site, at more than 230,000 hectares, is the largest SPA designation for birds in Ireland’s history,” Mr Noonan said.

“We are working hard as a Government to ensure we have robust protections in place for nature as we work to deliver on our offshore renewable energy objectives. Biodiversity action and climate action must go hand in hand, “he said.

The new north-west Irish Sea SPA extends offshore along the coasts of counties Louth, Meath and Dublin.

It will be of “conservation interest” for these seabirds: Common Scoter; Red-throated Diver; Great Northern Diver; Fulmar; Manx Shearwater; Shag; Cormorant; Little Gull; Kittiwake; Black-headed Gull; Common Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Little Tern, Roseate Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot

It will adjoin these existing protected areas: Lambay Island SPA; Skerries Island SPA; Ireland's Eye SPA; Howth Head SPA; Rockabill SPA; South Dublin Bay and River Tolka Estuary SPA; Boyne Estuary SPA; River Nanny Estuary and Shore SPA; Rogerstown Estuary SPA; Malahide Estuary SPA; Baldoyle Bay SPA and North Bull Island SPA.

More detailed information about the site, including a map, a species list and a list of the Activities Requiring Consent (ARCs) for the site is available on www.npws.ie/protectedsites.

The NPWS says that in keeping with the Birds and Habitats Regulations 2011, any person with an interest in the proposed site may submit an objection or observation at the following email address: [email protected].

“Objections or observations may only be based on scientific, ornithological grounds,” it says.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

University College Cork (UCC) researchers say that cloudier sea waters, caused in part by climate change, is making it harder for seabirds to catch fish.

Researchers attached tiny trackers to the feathers of Manx Shearwater seabirds on Little Saltee, off the southeast coast, to see how underwater visibility affects their ability to forage for fish and other prey.

The study is the first to examine impact of ocean clarity on the diving abilities of seabirds, and results have been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Birds.

Lead author of the study, UCC marine ecologist Jamie Darby said that “the chemical and physical properties of the planet’s oceans are changing at an unnatural rate, bringing about challenges for marine life”.

“One consequence of climate change is that large areas of our oceans are becoming cloudier,” Darby said.

Darby and the research team say they investigated the diving patterns of the black and white Manx Shearwaters in relation to local environmental conditions like cloud cover and water clarity.

They recorded over 5000 different dives, and drew from publicly available databases, and a range of relevant information about weather patterns and ocean conditions.

The study found that the birds dove deeper when sunlight could penetrate further underwater, suggesting that visibility is key to their ability to dive for food.

The study says that seabirds will have to overcome this challenge as the planet warms and the ocean becomes cloudier.

“Our findings support the idea that the birds needed sufficient sunlight to be able to forage at depth,” Darby said.

“ While this study examined one particular seabird, the results can be extended to other animals,” he said.

“ Many visually-dependent predators could find themselves struggling to find food as human activities continue to make the oceans murkier,” Darby said.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

The Rathlin RSPB (Royal Society for Protection of Birds) has announced the Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre will re-open on Saturday 29th May in line with the NI Executive's indicative date for visitor attractions. This, of course, may be subject to review.

Rathlin lies about six miles off the North Antrim coast opposite Ballycastle and is reached by the Ballycastle -Rathlin ferry.

The Seabird Centre is four miles west of the Harbour on the site of the unique 'Upside Down' lighthouse. It can be reached by private bus, bicycle or on foot.

There are unrivalled close-up views of Northern Ireland's largest seabird colony and a chance to explore the lighthouse, part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland Trail. There is a 158-step descent to the viewing platform and lighthouse.

The centre is open daily until 19th September from 10 am – 5 pm (last entry 4 pm).

Published in Marine Wildlife

Without a lot of public attention Birdwatch Ireland, the conservation organisation which protects Ireland's birds and their habitats, is engaged in an extensive survey of seabirds. Ireland is a very important country for seabirds which are, in my view, marvellous creatures of Nature. The variety of seabirds around our coastline is huge, but they are facing several threats and, if the issues are not resolved, some species could face extinction.
Sailing around the coastline I have marvelled at seabirds. One of my best memories is of a Summer’s evening heading towards Valentia Island on the Kerry coast.
Passing Puffin Island is an experience to remember. It is an Irish wildbird conservancy reserve of Birdwatch Ireland, near Portmagee. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow sound and is, at times, home to thousands of pairs of Manx Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and Puffins and smaller numbers of other breeding seabirds.
I was particularly impressed by the Puffins with their coloured bills and black-and-white coats, almost looking particularly well-dressed for a formal evening out.
I thought the Puffins were the most magnificent of birds and admired them while sailing past.
For this edition of my radio programme I spent a very pleasant hour or so with Niall Hatch, Development Officer of Birdwatch Ireland discussing why Ireland is such an important location for seabirds and why it is vital to support work being undertaken to ensure their future and, particularly, that of species which are threatened with extinction.
“Ireland is incredibly important for seabirds. We are home to populations of many scarce and threatened species,” Niall told me. “Given our location, at the very edge of Europe, we are the last point of departure as they leave and the first port-of-call for those coming in from the Atlantic.
On this week’s THIS ISLAND NATION, which you can listen to below, he outlines the threats of extinction faced by several species of seabirds, describes the survey work being done in this regard and, in a wider perspective, talks about the involvement of Birdwatch Ireland internationally and the efforts to protect that legendary bird associated with the sea, the Albatross.

Published in Island Nation
Tagged under

About Rosslare Europort

2021 sees Rosslare Europort hitting a new record with a total of 36 shipping services a week operating from the port making it one of the premier Irish ports serving the European Continent. Rosslare Europort is a gateway to Europe for the freight and tourist industries. It is strategically located on the sunny south-east coast of Ireland.

Rosslare is within a 90-minute driving radius of major Irish cities; Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Rosslare Europort is a RoRo, RoPax, offshore and bulk port with three RoRo berths with a two-tier linkspan, we also have a dedicated offshore bulk berth.

Exports in Rosslare Europort comprise mainly of fresh products, food, pharmaceuticals, steel, timber and building supplies. While imports are largely in the form of consumer goods such as clothes, furniture, food, trade vehicles, and electronics.

The entire Europort is bar-swept to 7.2 meters, allowing unrestricted access to vessels with draughts up to 6.5 metres. Rosslare Europort offers a comprehensive service including mooring, stevedoring and passenger-car check-in for RoRo shipping lines. It also provides facilities for offshore, dry bulk and general cargo.

The port currently has twice-daily round services to the UK and direct services to the continent each day. Rosslare Europort has a fleet of Tugmasters service, fork-lift trucks, tractors and other handling equipment to cater for non-standard RoRo freight.