New research published by the RSPB suggests a link between the amount of sandeels caught by fisherman and the breeding success of kittiwakes.


The study finds that higher intensity fishing of sandeels leads to lower number of chicks being produced by the kittiwakes, a small species of gull that is currently red-listed in the UK.

The study used GPS tags to track individual breeding kittiwakes and found that the foraging areas of eastern English colonies overlapped with an area in the North Sea known as the Dogger Bank.

“We followed individual kittiwakes from colonies at Filey and Flamborough in Yorkshire to see where they went to feed during the breeding season,” said Dr Mark Bolton, the RSPB’s principal conservation scientist.

“We found that they went much further from the coast than we had previously realised, and were often travelling all the way to the Dogger Bank to catch these small fish… for themselves and their chicks.”

Artwork, Sandeels
Illustration of sand eels. © Robin Carter / RSPB

This area is the largest sandbank in the North Sea and supports a high density of sandeels, which are targeted by the fishing industry, mainly from Denmark.

The waters over Dogger Bank are shared by Netherlands, Germany and the UK.

Aren't Birds Brilliant scheme at Seaford, Sussex. Telescopes & binoculars are available for viewing the Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla, colony. RSPB staff and volunteers are on hand to talk to visitors. July 2007.
Kittiwakes nesting in Seaford (Sussex). © Andy Hay/RSPB


Main image: Kittiwake in flight. © Grahame Madge/RSPB


Megan ShersbyNaturalist, writer and content creator