Good news for Scotland's seabirds

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Keep up to date with the latest wildlife and nature news in Scotland. Regular blogs from RSPB Scotland's conservation teams across the country. Writing about Scotland's amazing wildlife & natural environment.

Good news for Scotland's seabirds

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Allan Whyte, RSPB Scotland Marine Policy Officer, gives us some good news about seabirds.

Good news for Scotland's seabirds

There is a glimmer of hope reflecting on Scotland’s sea. Invariably it is bad news when seabirds make the headlines, but recent announcements by the Scottish Government have bucked the trend.

14 draft Special Protection Areas (SPAs) have been announced for seabirds, along with the designation of 30 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including six for black guillemots and three for sandeels.

The announcements are an important first step towards creating a network of protected areas for seabirds and great news for RSPB Scotland and our supporters who have been campaigning for this for over a decade. We at RSPB would like to thank everyone who has taken part in our campaign and made this happen.

Scotland is home to globally important populations of seabirds, with 95% of the EU’s great skuas, 67% of the EU’s northern gannets and 65% of the EU’s black-legged kittiwakes all breeding on Scotland’s coasts. Climate change and poor management of Scotland’s marine environment has contributed to declines in seabird populations in Scotland, with around half of our seabirds disappearing since the mid 1980s.

A recent report, published by RSPB Scotland, identified key seabird feeding areas the Government must designate to meet its international obligations, so the draft SPAs announced are an important first step, but more must be done to properly protect seabirds in Scotland.

RSPB Scotland’s Director, Stuart Housden said “The designation of draft Special Protection Areas is an excellent first step on what will be a long journey towards securing a healthy marine environment in Scotland. However, the real test will be how well these sites are protected and managed to help restore Scotland’s seabird populations. Although we are now at last making progress in protecting key areas, our seabirds are still without the protection they need further out at sea where they feed. The Scottish Government must bring forward more SPAs for seabirds soon and also recognise the value of MPAs for other seabirds like razorbills, kittiwakes and Arctic terns.

“A number of crucially important areas, for example parts of the outer Firth of Forth, have not yet been protected for seabirds, despite their enormous value to gannets, kittiwakes and other species. Worryingly this is the same area being scoped for large scale offshore wind development. We will not stand idly by and let such areas be damaged. RSPB Scotland looks forward to continuing working with the Government to finish the designation job, enhance the seas around our coasts and restore our seabird and marine wildlife heritage.”

These sites have the potential to protect and enhance Scotland’s marine environment, benefit our world class industries and our coastal communities; the challenge of unlocking that potential is still to come. Watch this space!

  • Hi there, thanks for your question.The Scottish and UK Governments, and the EU, have committed to, and legislated for, a programme of measures that will protect and enhance the marine environment around the UK. The EC Habitats and Birds Directives have been incorporated into Scottish and UK law, so the announcements referred to in the blog will remain in place whether or not Scotland votes for independence.

    Political boundaries mean little to our wildlife, which is why environmental conservation is a global pursuit. The RSPB works with international partners to ensure that wildlife is protected all over the globe. The result of the independence referendum will not change our approach.Hope that helps!

  • If Scotland votes for Independence in September what is the likely impact on the offshore protection of birds and the marine environment? It appears that the Scottish economy will become more dependent on income generated by offshore oil and gas supply.

    Will the initiatives outlined above still be honoured?