Our Seabird Policy Officer, Rory Crawford, discusses Scotland's seabirds and how you can help them.

Scotland and Seabirds

Scotland has many natural treasures, but there is one in particular I think we often overlook. It’s no surprise really – it happens all over the world – people take it for granted that the wildlife they see around them is commonplace everywhere.  I imagine there’d be far fewer extinctions if we appreciated and took stock of the importance of seemingly common species more often.

A salty sea dog like me is always banging on about it – but it’s worth repeating: Scotland (and the UK as a whole) is internationally important for seabirds. The world’s largest Manx shearwater colony is on the Isle of Rum. The vast majority – close to 80% - of the global population is divided between this island, Skomer and Skokholm in Wales. It’s not often you read about these enigmatic seabirds, so I promise to blog about them later in the week.

The world’s biggest northern gannet colony is found on St. Kilda, and the UK as a whole is home to 59% of the entire global population. A gannet colony is an astounding sight – and some of the most impressive in the country are RSPB reserves – Ailsa Craig, Grassholm and Bempton Cliffs are all incredible viewing (and smelling!).

So seabird colonies are truly amazing and I think they are our greatest wildlife spectacle.

Gannet. Photo: Andy Hay

In spite of this, it won’t have escaped your attention that, as a nation, we’ve done a rather poor job of protecting the most important areas of sea for our seabirds. We enter 2012 still without a single marine protected area safeguarding the places where seabirds feed at sea.

All the legal tools are there – the EU laws and national legislation that the RSPB and our supporters campaigned so hard for. It’s time for these tools to be used, especially at a time when many seabirds are struggling.

Over the coming months, important decisions are being made across the UK about the location of marine protected areas (MPAs). After years of campaigning, we think it is absolutely critical that seabirds, the jewel in the crown of our marine biodiversity, are properly protected by this network of protected areas.

In Scotland, we’re handing over the signatures we’ve accumulated so far on our marine ‘Stepping Up for Nature’ pledge to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, Richard Lochhead on the 6th of March. We want to show him the strength of support for Scottish seabirds – and this is the final push.

So please – sign the pledge, tweet the link, stick it on your facebook, tell your friends, your granny and her cat. The politicians need to know that this stuff matters.

Sign the pledge here: www.rspb.org.uk/marinepetition