Threats to Seabirds
Seabirds are both terrestrial and marine animals. They depend on both realms to survive – and so they are also affected by threats in both environments.
Our understanding of the main threats to seabirds and how species are impacted guides BirdLife’s conservation and advocacy work. Read more about our policy work here.
Please view this page on a desktop computer to see our interactive Threats to Seabirds feature.
Using tracking data to address bycatch
Understanding where and when animals are under threat is crucial for directing conservation efforts to where they are most needed. This is particularly true for seabirds, who face widespread threats at sea, including accidental capture (bycatch) in fisheries. While some fisheries have already reduced seabird bycatch by 80% by adopting mitigation measures, bycatch is still causing declines in many seabird populations.
Over the last few decades, researchers have used electronic tracking devices attached to a wide range of seabird species to record bird movements, providing unprecedented insight into the lives of birds at sea. BirdLife has been working in close collaboration with researchers to compile this data to help address the threat of bycatch – we established the Global Procellariiform Tracking Database in 2004, which then evolved to hold data for all seabird species – the current Seabird Tracking Database. We can now overlap seabird distributions with fishing effort to predict hotspots of risk – information that is vital for stakeholders and policy makers to target bycatch mitigation work and protect seabirds from unnecessary deaths in fisheries.
BirdLife researchers have developed a framework that integrates multiple sources of data to identify seabird hotspots at sea. Working with collaborators around the world, we used tracking data from over 4,000 individual birds to map the at-sea distributions of 22 seabird species of global conservation concern and quantify overlaps with fisheries. While many tracking studies focus solely on breeding adults, we showed that including data from juvenile, immature, and non-breeding adult birds is vital for estimating the full extent of risk from fisheries.
Tristan Albatross from Gough Island, South Atlantic. Non-breeding adults and juveniles disperse more widely than breeding adults and have higher overlap with longline fishing effort, which may mean increased risk from bycatch. Source: Carneiro et al. (2020). Thanks to our data contributors.