Proposals highlight plight of seabirds –

Proposals highlight plight of seabirds Published:  06 December, 2006

THE European Commission’s annual proposals for industrial fisheries, such as sandeel and sprat, highlight that seabirds, whales and other marine animals may be finding it difficult to find the food they need to survive, the RSPB said today.

Industrial fisheries pursue these important fish species – which make up the bottom of the food chain – not for human consumption, but to provide fish meal and oil for rearing livestock and farmed fish.

Dr Euan Dunn, the RSPB’s head of marine policy, said: “The Commission says that the lack of small oily fish, such as sprat and sandeel, in the North Sea is cause for concern. These species should only be allowed caught when scientific evidence proves the stocks have replenished enough to sustain the fishery, as well as providing enough food for seabirds.”

In recent years there has been unprecedented breeding failures of sandeel-dependent seabirds. Seabirds fared badly in East Scotland, where guillemots had an extremely poor year. This year at Fowlsheugh (Aberdeenshire) and the Isle of May (Fife), in scenes reminiscent of the calamitous failure of 2004, by mid-July dead chicks littered the ledges and the sea under the colony. This shortage may well be driven by a rise in sea temperature reducing the growth of sandeel populations. In turn, this scuppers seabirds if there are few alternative prey – especially sprats – available.