By JULIA HORTON
Published on Sunday 3 March 2013 00:00
SOME of the world’s rarest seabirds could be under renewed threat in
following the controversial decision to ban fishing fleets from dumping
unwanted fish. Scotland
European Union countries voted last week to outlaw the discarding of millions of tonnes of dead or dying fish which are thrown back into the sea because they have been caught in excess of strict quotas.
But while the move should help safeguard fish stocks in the long term, experts fear the change will seriously reduce populations of birds such as great skuas, which have come to rely on discards as a key source of food.
Most of the world’s 16,000 remaining great skuas are in
they are known as bonxies. They have eaten discards for decades since
overfishing reduced levels of sandeels, their natural prey. Scotland
Ornithologists warn that phasing out discards also poses a threat to other endangered seabirds. Previous moves to limit wasted catches in the
North Sea led to an increase in great
skuas switching to killing smaller seabirds for food, particularly the
Environmental groups now want the Scottish Government to formally designate a network of marine protected areas around the coastline to protect sandeel stocks and provide more natural food for species such as the skua.
RSPB Scotland, which has commissioned research into the impact of the ban, stressed that while it supports the decision it is concerned about the potential effects in the short term.