About this Collection
Seabirds are strong indicators of the health of marine ecosystems, which many species depend on, including humans. Unfortunately, seabirds have become highly imperiled, with research showing that populations worldwide have declined nearly 70% since the 1950s, raising concerns internationally and indicating a significant need for marine conservation. Nearly half of the remaining species are threatened or near threatened from human-induced causes such as climate-related changes to prey resources and weather; fisheries bycatch and overfishing of prey; loss of breeding, roosting, and foraging habitat; pollution and debris; energy development; and . At sea for most of their lives, seabirds are also indicators of long-term and large-scale changes in marine ecosystems that portend threats to the crucial services the ocean provides humanity.
- The foods they depend on (zooplankton, fish, or invertebrates like squid, small crustacea, and mollusks) are decreasing in numbers or nutrient value and getting harder for the seabirds to find.
- Seabirds also must contend with warming ocean temperatures that can change how much food is available, where food is located and can increase the intensity and strength of storms.
- Seabirds may also be accidentally caught by individual and commercial fisheries when people fish for the same sea life that seabirds hunt for.
- They may eat undigestible plastic, get entangled in trash and abandoned fishing gear, or be harmed by oil spills and other pollution in the ocean and along coastlines.
- They may lose the places where they nest, eat, and rest due to development of energy production in the ocean, building along coastlines, and climate-related rising sea levels.
- They may also be disturbed directly by human activity, such as increasing vessel traffic in remote waters and humans in the areas where they nest, feed, and raise their young.
- Light pollution from increasing numbers of ships on the sea, as well as development along coasts and islands can attract and disorient seabirds, causing collision with ships, structures, and powerlines. Seabirds disoriented by light may “fall out” on land, exhausted and vulnerable to predators and vehicles.
- At their nesting colonies seabirds may have to deal with abnormally high temperatures, invasive plants that ruin nesting habitat, introduced predators that take eggs, chicks, and adults, and local contamination.
What is FWS Doing?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to increase our understanding of seabirds, how they live, and where they go so that we can better conserve them in the face of increasing human activities that may affect them at sea and on the coasts. We work with our partners and the American people to:
- Increase awareness of the plight of seabirds and their conservation
- Determine how best to use existing data to conserve seabirds, strengthen existing partnerships, and build new collaborations to address the highest seabird conservation priorities
How You Can Help
- Learn the rules of the beach, coast, or island you are visiting and respect signs and beach restrictions.
- If you eat seafood, select sustainable fisheries-certified seafood that is bird safe.
- Become involved in local measures to reduce light pollution, close curtains at night, and turn off your exterior lights when you can.
- Support local efforts to reduce disturbance at seabird breeding colonies.
- Use less plastic; plastic entraps and is consumed by seabirds.
- Properly dispose of your trash so it doesn’t become marine debris.
- Join established beach clean-ups in your area.