26 May 2008
SHETLAND’S creel fishermen are being asked to help in recording kittiwake
colonies around the isles’ to keep population data up to date.
Figures for the bird’s numbers have fallen dramatically from about 55,000 to
just below 10,000 since the 1980s.
However, ornithologists have now noticed that “extinct” breeding sites have
“started up again” as well as some unrecorded new colonies.
As the birds’ nesting areas are on cliffs that can only be seen from the sea,
inshore creel fisherman would easily be able to record information that could be
used to provide an accurate picture of the situation.
Martin Heubeck of the Sullom Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG)
said: “That is why we are asking for their help to keep a track of the colonies
that are still in existence, ones that have gone extinct and when, and if they
can provide a count so much the better.”
Mr Heubeck’s job is to keep an inventory of the total population in case there
was a “big oil spill”.
“We need to know what is in the cupboard, just in case something happens. Trying
to keep up with the kittiwakes has become difficult.
“Some of the new colonies can increase quite rapidly, as they are pulling in
birds from other colonies. That means some of the colonies are spreading out.”
The Shetland Fisherman’s Association has given its support to the project. Its
chief executive Hansen Black said they would be writing to members asking them
to become involved.