Bird news 2004 United Kingdom

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Puffins (July 04)

Puffins (July 04)

Wardens at the RSPB's Coquet Island nature reserve in Northumberland breathed a sigh of relief as thousands of puffins returned to their nesting burrows this year. Click the photograph (left) to find out how you can help towards the RSPB's vital conservation work.

Just a week prior to their arrival, there were less than 100 puffins on the 14 acre island, compared to 18,700 pairs last year. But the puffins made a big return to the island and a count carried out by the RSPB found that an estimated 22,500 birds were back on the island.

RSPB warden, Paul Morrison, said: It is fantastic to see so many puffins back on Coquet Island. Normally the island is full of thousands of these colourful birds by mid May' but only a few birds had settled back on the island.

It is very unusual for the puffins to return so late, and we dont know yet what the implications are for their breeding success. We just hope that it will now be business as usual for the puffins, as we know that many of the birds are now incubating eggs.

It is fantastic to see so many puffins back on CoquetThe survey showed that we are still a few thousand puffins down on last years record breeding season, but other puffin colonies elsewhere on the east coast have increased numbers, so perhaps there is a link.

However, the unexpectedly late return of the puffins to Coquet was good news for the organisers of the boat trips that take visitors around the island. Normally by July and August when most holiday-makers visit Northumberland, most of the puffins have already have left the island for a life on the ocean waves, but this year they were still around to delight the summer day-trippers.

Puffins first nested on Coquet as recently as 1966 and their numbers have been on the increase ever since. Coquet is also an important breeding site for many other species of seabirds, especially the rare roseate tern. More than 75% of the entire UK population of roseate terns nest on Coquet Island, making the island of international importance for these birds.

Royal support for albatrosses


His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, gave a stirring speech about the problems facing albatrosses on the final day of the Waterbirds around the world conference, which took place from 4–7 April in Edinburgh, UK.

Up to 100,000 albatrosses are killed each year through indiscriminate longline fishing. The Prince told of his special affection for these birds and how he had first learned of their plight through the efforts of BirdLife International and other non-government organisations. In 1996, just three albatross species were threatened, but today all 21 species are at risk of extinction.

Efforts to tackle the problem are underway, and His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, welcomed the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), which came into force two months ago, saying it was a huge achievement. ACAP includes legally binding commitments by nations ratifying it to protect seabirds, both at sea and on their nesting grounds. These include the compulsory use of mitigation measures, such as setting lines underwater or only at night, trailing a bird-scaring line and prohibiting offal discharge while fishing, to reduce numbers of birds accidentally caught during fishing operations. The Prince declared that he couldn’t have been more pleased to hear that the UK Fisheries Minister, Elliot Morley, had earlier announced during the conference that the UK had joined the five other nations to have ratified ACAP already. However, His Royal Highness noted, many countries still needed to ratify ACAP, yet some of the most important appeared unlikely to do so.

The Prince also noted the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, which appears to be getting worse. More than 1,000 ‘pirate’ vessels operate under ‘flags of convenience’ and act outside international laws. They are believed to be responsible for around a third of all seabird deaths caused by longlining. Of particular concern are those targeting Patagonian Toothfish, which is sold under many ‘consumer-friendly’ aliases, such as Chilean Sea Bass in the USA and Mero in Japan, and is itself under severe threat because of over-fishing.

His Royal Highness agreed with the conclusions of a Greenpeace report, which recommended closing ports to these illegal ships, closing markets for their fish, and penalising the vessels’ owners and operators. Referring to United Nations efforts to tackle pirate fisheries through an International Plan of Action, The Prince spoke of the strenuous efforts by several countries to water down the draft provisions, thereby missing vital opportunities to take effective measures, for example against the use of chartered vessels in illegal, unreported and unregulated operations.

His Royal Highness concluded by saying that the albatross may be the ultimate test of whether humankind is serious about conservation, and wondered if we would just remain blind to the appalling tragedy unfolding, out of sight and out of mind, in the vast foam-flecked spaces of the Southern Ocean.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2006  | Bird News England (Archive) |  Bird news 2004 United Kingdom

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