Bird Conservation International

Conservation and ecology of the world’s seabirds

Seabird conservation status, threats and priority actions: a global assessment

JOHN P. CROXALLa1 c1, STUART H. M. BUTCHARTa1, BEN LASCELLESa1, ALISON J. STATTERSFIELDa1, BEN SULLIVANa2, ANDY SYMESa1 and PHIL TAYLORa1

a1 BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Road, Cambridge CB3 0NA, UK.

a2 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG 19 2DL, UK.

Summary

We review the conservation status of, and threats to, all 346 species of seabirds, based on BirdLife International’s data and assessments for the 2010 IUCN Red List. We show that overall, seabirds are more threatened than other comparable groups of birds and that their status has deteriorated faster over recent decades. The principal current threats at sea are posed by commercial fisheries (through competition and mortality on fishing gear) and pollution, whereas on land, alien invasive predators, habitat degradation and human disturbance are the main threats. Direct exploitation remains a problem for some species both at sea and ashore. The priority actions needed involve: a) formal and effective site protection, especially for Important Bird Area (IBA) breeding sites and for marine IBA feeding and aggregation sites, as part of national, regional and global networks of Marine Protected Areas; b) removal of invasive, especially predatory, alien species (a list of priority sites is provided), as part of habitat and species recovery initiatives; and c) reduction of bycatch to negligible levels, as part of comprehensive implementation of ecosystem approaches to fisheries. The main knowledge gaps and research priorities relate to the three topics above but new work is needed on impacts of aquaculture, energy generation operations and climate change (especially effects on the distribution of prey species and rise in sea level). We summarise the relevant national and international jurisdictional responsibilities, especially in relation to endemic and globally threatened species.

(Received April 07 2011)

(Accepted October 19 2011)

(Online publication February 06 2012)

Correspondence:

c1 Author for correspondence; e-mail: john.croxall@birdlife.org