Kittiwakes, puffins and razorbills are some of England’s most treasured seabirds that could benefit from proposed measures to ban sandeel fishing, Defra has announced today (Tuesday 7 March).

Sandeels are small, eel like fish that are a vital food source to vulnerable seabirds, commercially important fish species such as haddock and whiting, and sea mammals including seals and whales.

Yet sandeel numbers are under pressure from industrial fishing in the North Sea. Without effective management measures, this threatens marine ecosystems and poses a risk to the breeding success and population resilience of UK seabirds – most notably, kittiwakes.


Photo: Glen Hooper

According to experts at Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, seabird abundance could increase within 10 years as a result of the full banning of industrial sandeel fishing in UK waters.

Defra has launched a consultation on proposed management measures for sandeel fishing within English waters, with the aim to reduce further negative impacts on important marine biodiversity.

Katie-jo Luxton, Director for Conservation at the RSPB said: This is a crucial moment; after last year’s devastating outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu and with major new offshore energy developments planned, there is an urgent need to build the resilience of our seabird colonies as well as helping to rebuild the overall health of the North Sea for all marine wildlife. Defra are to be congratulated in coming forward with this consultation, which is a vital first step in securing the UK-wide ban our seabirds need.

The consultation, which will run for 12 weeks until 29 May.

Further information can be found here.

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