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Are seagulls endangered?

Sent in by Paul Parker, Hartlepool

It's true. Seagulls - the generic term for some of the gulls found in the UK - are struggling. The most well-known and most belligerent of all our gulls, the herring gull, is now a red listed species of conservation concern.

You may find this hard to believe as they are a very vocal species that is not easy to overlook and can still be found at most coastal locations and many inland as well. However, their breeding population has declined from 750,000 pairs in 1993 to 378,000 pairs according to the most recent figures.

The internationally important numbers of non-breeding herring gulls which spend winter here have also fallen by over 50 per cent, according to the long-term trends. Herring gulls have dropped in number at their coastal sites by 53 per cent since 1969. Despite an increase at inland nesting sites, they are still declining overall.

One of the main reasons for the decline is the lack of food for them in the coastal environment. The overfishing of UK coastal waters and warming seas caused by climate change are likely to be the main reasons for the reduced amount of food available to gulls and other seabirds.

Due to the lack of fish, the fishing fleets have also now dwindled, which has reduced the amount of fish processing waste that used to be discarded and was scavenged by gulls. Other factors include the loss of suitable coastal nesting sites, botulism and killing by humans.

Other familiar gull species that occur in the UK - such as the kittiwake, black-headed gull and lesser black-backed gull - are on the amber list, so we are concerned about them as well.

To help save our declining gull species, seabirds and other marine wildlife, we are campaigning for more protection for our marine environment. One way would be the creation of Marine Conservation Zones.

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