Populations of gannets, puffins and other marine birds are in freefall, but a crucial scientific study to pinpoint the causes is being blocked, say experts
Robin McKieScience editor
Sunday 20 August 2017 00.04 BSTLast modified on Sunday 20 August 2017 09.20 BST
Bempton Cliffs bird reserve was in fine fettle last week. The last of its population of puffins had departed for the winter a few weeks earlier, while its thousands of young gannets were still being cared for by their parents on the chalk cliffs of the East Yorkshire nature site. For good measure, kittiwakes, cormorants and fulmars were also bathing in the sunshine.
It was a comforting sight for any birdwatcher but this benign picture was in stark contrast to many other bird reserves in Britain. Our populations of seabirds – arctic skuas, arctic terns and kittiwakes – are in freefall. And, in some cases, the numbers are dire.
“For reasons that are not entirely clear – though they are almost certainly concerned with climate change – Bempton Cliffs has not suffered from the precipitous declines in seabird numbers that we see elsewhere,” said Euan Dunn, a principal policy officer for the RSPB.