Impacts of fisheries on seabird communities


  • Robert W. Furness Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow



conservation, discards, ecosystem, fisheries management, industrial fisheries, predator-prey, sandeel


Long-line by-catch of albatrosses and petrels may soon lead to species extinctions. Set-net bycatch has caused major reductions in certain seabird populations. Some fisheries may decrease numbers of seabirds by reducing abundance of prey-fish. Other fisheries may increase seabird numbers, by increasing prey-fish abundance through depletion of predatory fish stocks, or by provision of offal and discards. These latter impacts of fisheries on seabirds are often difficult to measure against a background of many and varied environmental and human influences. Depletion of stocks of small lipid-rich fish have reduced numbers of seabirds, in Peru, the Norwegian Sea, and the Barents Sea. However, reductions of predatory fish stocks in the North Sea have more than compensated for quantities of sandeels removed by the sandeel fishery. While piscivorous fish stocks remain low, sandeel fishery and seabirds appear to be able to coexist. However, if piscivorous fish stocks recover in the North Sea, reduced availability of sandeels to seabirds may affect certain species. Provision of discards and offal can stimulate large increases in scavenging seabird numbers. Desirable reductions in discard rates may have an unfortunate side-effect of forcing some scavenging seabirds to turn to killing smaller seabirds, with drastic consequences for community structure.


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How to Cite

Furness RW. Impacts of fisheries on seabird communities. scimar [Internet]. 2003Jul.30 [cited 2022Oct.4];67(S2):33-45. Available from: