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Seabird Decline Since 1950s Is Dramatic

Jul 09, 2015 10:54 PM EDT
Laysan albatross
Seabird numbers are down by 70 percent since the 1950s, say researchers.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

The monitored seabird populations of our world have dropped 70 percent since the 1950s. Meaning that the seabird numbers that flocked, say, during the Cuban Missile Crisis or when the movie Scarface was a hit are no longer in such glorious crowds. This is a stark indication that marine ecosystems are not doing well, as researchers at the University of British Columbia and and the University of Technology, Sydney, in Australia, recently wrote in their paper in PLOS ONE.

The researchers compiled information on more than 500 seabird populations from around the world, adding up to 19 percent of the global seabird population. The overall populations had declined by 69.6 percent, they say in their report--meaning there has been a loss of about 230 million birds in 60 years.

"Seabirds are particularly good indicators of the health of marine ecosystems," said Paleczny, in a release. "When we see this magnitude of seabird decline, we can see there is something wrong with marine ecosystems. It gives us an idea of the overall impact we're having."

Contributors to the decline include: overfishing of seabird food; birds becoming tangled in fishing gear; plastic and oil pollution; non-native predators to seabird colonies; changes and destruction to habitat; and alterations caused by climate change, the release said.

The albatross, for instance, shows substantial declines in the report, and often gets caught on longline fishing hooks and drowns. This is a problem that kills hundred of thousands of seabirds every year, according to the release.

"Our work demonstrates the strong need for increased seabird conservation effort internationally," said Paleczny, according to the release. "Loss of seabirds causes a variety of impacts in coastal and marine ecosystems."

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