Seabirds — A Global Conservation Crisis

A new assessment of Canada’s bird populations reveals a trend in global seabird conservation.

Birds are an integral part of ecosystems, but the degradation of habitat through climate change, pollution, and threats such as invasive species are causing population declines on a global scale. The North American Bird Conservation Initiative Canada has released The State of Canada’s Birds report, which identified the leading threats facing waterfowl, grassland birds, shorebirds, seabirds, forest birds, birds of prey, and insectivores.

In recent years, research has revealed that seabirds are of conservation concern worldwide and Canada’s seabird populations are no different. The report identified Canada’s seabirds as species that nest in Canada as well as those that rely on Canadian waters for feeding. Populations assessments show that out of the 58 Canadian seabirds, 55 are considered species of conservation concern or at risk of extinction. Only three are considered low concern.

Cassin’s Auklets breed on islands from Canada to Mexico. Credit: Island Conservation

Still more troubling is the lack of current population data that is available for some species—62% of Canada’s birds have unknown population trends. Determining these trends through further population studies is a vital part of conservation for seabirds, but even without the numbers the threats seabirds face are clear. The study identified four of the key threats to seabirds and the conservation actions that can help protect their populations. Pollution including plastic and oil spills, climate change, unsustainable fishing practices, and invasive species were identified as the areas of conservation focus.

On islands, invasive species are one of the leading causes of extinctions historically and without intervention, this threat will continue. Canada’s seabird populations and seabird populations around the world are declining, but we know how to fix it. Removing invasive species from islands is one of the most effective conservation actions available today and it directly benefits seabirds by protecting vital nesting habitat. By focusing on invasive species removal, pollution, climate change, and unsustainable fishing practices, we can help prevent extinctions.

Featured photo: A Rhinoceros Auklet. Credit: Frostnip
Read The State of Canada’s Birds Report

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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