Puffins face terminal decline as a result of overfishing in North Sea

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PUFFIN numbers could go into terminal decline unless drastic action is taken, according to a conservationist expert.
The much-loved sea bird could be wiped out unless the Scottish Government tackles overfishing in the North Sea.
Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, highlights that the puffin population is suffering due to the mass harvesting of sand eels.
Millions of tonnes of the eels – a vital part of the birds’ diet – along with other smaller fish are ground down and turned into pulp for farmed salmon.
He points out in his latest book – Dead Zone: Where The Wild Things Were – that between 1994 and 2003 around 880,000 tonnes of the sand eels were “scooped” out of North Sea.
(Photo by Jörg Hempel)
One of the largest puffin colonies in the UK on the Isle of May , Firth of Forth, has seen a population decline of around 30% between 2003 and 2009.
The Fair Isle, off the coast of Shetland, the numbers of puffins has halved to 10,000 since 1986.
Mr Lymbery said: “In Britain, I’ve seen puffins grasping bunches of small silvery thin fish in their beaks: sand eels.
“These little fish are rocket fuel for hungry puffin chicks, but they are in diminishing supply – and once again, industrial farming is in the frame.”
Mr Lymbery also highlights the waste which is caused during the process of turning the fish into food for the salmon.
He continued: “Between two and five kilograms of wild fish are used to produce one kilogram of farmed fish. It’s a huge waste and completely unsustainable.”
Now the urging ministers to get involved, Lymbery wants a “sustainable food and farm act” that he hopes will reduce reliance on aquaculture.
He said: “We are scooping huge quantities of sand eels to feed farmed fish.
“The first thing we should do is pass a law that fish can only be caught for human consumption.
“The government needs to encourage a move away from intensive factory farming and consumers can help by avoiding farmed fish. “
Although the main issue facing the bird is climate change Lymbery argued that prey species are being unsustainably exploited.
He said: “Of course, climate change will have, and probably is having a big impact.
“Prey species are exploited unsustainably, leading to prey reductions and subsequent unsuccessful breeding.
“In other words, when too many small fish are being hauled out of the sea, the truth is that our wildlife us under multiple pressures and is increasingly being squeezed out of a world of ever-shrinking resources.
Nicknamed the “clowns of the seas”,  European puffins are officially classified as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and are expected to decline by up to 80% by 2065.
Featured Image: Andreas Trepte

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