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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 202:253-264 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps202253

Seabird-fishery interactions: quantifying the sensitivity of seabirds to reductions in sandeel abundance, and identification of key areas for sensitive seabirds in the North Sea

Robert W. Furness1,*, Mark L. Tasker2

1Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, United Kingdom
2Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Dunnet House, 7 Thistle Place, Aberdeen AB10 1UZ, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT: Sandeels Ammodytes marinus are important food for many breeding seabirds in the North Sea, and are harvested in large quantities by an industrial fishery. There is very little evidence of the fishery reducing availability of sandeels to breeding seabirds, but there is concern that fishery managers should take account of the needs of breeding seabirds. Here we present a quantitative index of the sensitivity of different seabird species¹ breeding success to reduced abundance of sandeels. The index is based on seabird size, cost of foraging, potential foraging range, ability to dive, amount of Œspare¹ time in the daily budget, and ability to switch diet. Testing the index with empirical data from Shetland during periods of reduced sandeel abundance shows a close correlation between seabird breeding performance and predictions from the index. Mapping the distributions around the North Sea of seabirds with breeding success highly sensitive to sandeel abundance shows that the majority of sensitive seabirds breed in Shetland and Orkney. Industrial fishing in those regions should be closely controlled to avoid depleting the local sandeel stocks on which seabirds depend. This analysis considers only impacts on seabird breeding. There is a need for analysis of possible influences on other aspects of seabird demography.

KEY WORDS: Fisheries management · Conservation · Breeding success · Predator-prey · Seabird · Sandeel · Ammodytes · Industrial fishing

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