Seabirds at Sea


Monitoring seabirds at sea

The JNCC Seabirds at Sea Team (SAST) has carried out a programme of survey and research on seabirds and cetaceans in the marine environment in the north-east Atlantic since 1979, and in the south-west Atlantic between 1998 and 2002.


In 1979, little was known about the offshore distribution and ecology of seabirds, yet they faced potential threats, such as from the North Sea's rapidly expanding offshore oil industry. Much of the SAST's work has been driven and funded by the needs of the offshore oil and gas industry in the UK and overseas, with publications providing information on the locations of seabird concentrations vulnerable to oil pollution (e.g. Webb et al. 1995). Knowledge of distribution patterns of seabirds at sea is now much improved, and continues to underpin advice given by JNCC staff on developments in the hydrocarbon, aggregate and fishing industries, and latterly, renewable energy industry such as offshore wind farms.


Data from SAST’s boat and aerial surveys carried out from 1979-2002 is contained within the European Seabirds at Sea (ESAS) database, hosted by JNCC. This database is currently being analysed as part of work to identify offshore Special Protection Areas (SPAs).


Recent new work

The JNCC Seabirds at Sea Team has been involved in various collaborative projects, often by providing trained survey staff. These include:


  • SCANS II (2005): A project to estimate Small Cetacean abundance in European Atlantic and North Sea waters, allowing assessment and management of bycatch.


  • CMarHab ((2008): A NERC funded project to investigate oceanographic characteristics and predator-prey behaviours to define Critical Marrine Habitats  (see article in Nature News 19, p8, PDF, 1.7 mb)