Overfishing and Beast from the East blamed for sea bird deaths

The Firth of Forth is frequented by lots of different bird species; puffins, gannets, fulmars, guillemots and razorbills being among the most common. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The Firth of Forth is frequented by lots of different bird species; puffins, gannets, fulmars, guillemots and razorbills being among the most common. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Hundreds of dead sea birds have been found along the east coast with overfishing and the Beast from the East among the reasons behind their rapid demise, according to experts.

Dozens of concerned beach goers and walkers have taken to social media in recent weeks to enquire why such a high number of the birds are being discovered.

The Firth of Forth is frequented by lots of different bird species; puffins, gannets, fulmars, guillemots and razorbills being among the most common.

Nikki MacLeod a retired biology lecturer has taken an interest in what is happening to the dead birds.

“Everyone by the Forth finds 30 or 40 dead birds,” she said, “I saw fifty dead when I was walking near Hopeton House.”

Based on reports, Nikki estimates that there must be at least 1000 dead animals washed up on the Forth coast alone.

“Some estimate that bird populations on the Isle of May have dropped by half,” Nikki added.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, guillemots spend winter at sea and but come back in Spring to breed, March and July being the best months to see them.

The deaths have worried and intrigued members of the public who want to know what’s causing them, but Ian Thomson from the RSPB says it’s nothing suspicious.

“This happens most years when we get a strong easterly wind,” stated Mr Thomson.

“It’s especially bad when it happens late winter when birds are in their poorest condition. It’s too much for them when reserves are at their lowest.

He added: “Most of the deaths will be from starvation. Overfishing and climate change are adding burden to already hungry sea birds”.

Mr Thomson says the Forth has thousands of sea birds returning to breed and the bad weather dubbed ‘The Beast from the East’ will have an effect on them.

And he explained that, for some species of bird, it is difficult to tell if there has been a drop in population as not all the birds will have returned yet.

The National Sea Bird Survey is being carried out this year, giving researchers a much better understanding of the true scale of the devastation.

Mr Thomson said: “It will show the long term human impact of overfishing and climate change on sea birds.”

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology CEH has put out a plea urging anyone who discovers a dead sea bird to report it to them.

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