Serious decline in Scotland’s seabird colonies urgently warrants “marine reserves”, says RSPB

RSPB Scotland is warning that some of Scotland’s globally important seabird colonies could become extinct in parts of the country if the Scottish Government does not act quickly to protect them.

Species like common guillemots, razorbills and puffins are struggling to cope with increasing challenges including a lack of food and the effects of climate change, leaving Scotland’s once bustling seabird ‘cities’ in danger of falling silent.

Serious decline in Scotlands

Guillemot with fish in bill
Image: Andy Hay

The warning comes after end-of-season counts at the charity’s coastal reserves revealed that species like common guillemot, a black and white bird that nests in dense colonies on sea cliffs, are continuing to experience severe long-term declines.

Recent counts carried out on the RSPB reserve at Noup Cliffs on Orkney reveal a 41% fall in numbers of common guillemot since the last seabird census in 2000. Dunnet Head on the Caithness coast saw a decline of around 45% from 8,980 to just 4,880 since 2000 while common guillemots on Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde have suffered a decline of over 27% over the same period.

The nature conservation charity is calling on the Scottish Government to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for the country’s internationally important seabird populations. To date, only the black guillemot is listed in government proposals leaving species like common guillemot, kittiwake, arctic skua and razorbills, unprotected at sea.

In contrast with its close cousin, the black guillemot appears to be doing well with colony counts in the northern isles in particular showing good productivity.

Allan Whyte, Marine Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland said: “Scotland is home to 24 species of breeding seabird and it is baffling that the Scottish Government chooses to ignore all but one when designating MPAs. Puffins, kittiwakes, common guillemots and the rest are struggling to survive these tough times. The Scottish Government can and must throw these birds a lifeline and designate MPAs to protect this amazing group of species in danger of disappearing from our coasts. It is time we take action to give all of our seabirds, like Common guillemots, a fighting chance.”

Source: RSPB, 24th September 2013,

Please do share this

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS