Rare UK seabirds put at risk by ‘alarming loophole’, say campaigners

Rare UK seabirds put at risk by ‘alarming loophole’, say campaigners

The government has given itself an “alarming loophole” to avoid protecting seabirds including puffins and gannets, a leaked document shows.

Campaigners have accused ministers of “giving up” on the UK’s seabirds as they plan to apply for an exemption to a legal duty to protect the rare species.

Each year the government sets itself targets to protect the marine environment and the wildlife within it, and one of those goals is to halt seabird decline. Of the UK’s 25 breeding seabird species, 24 are assigned red or amber status on the birds of conservation concern list, meaning they are at risk of local extinction.

The UK marine strategy, seen by the Guardian, indicates that the government has shown signs that it intends to apply for exceptions to its legal duty to protect seabirds.

The strategy, first published in 2012, imposed a legal duty on the government to meet 15 measures to achieve “good environmental status” by 2020. One of the targets was to halt seabird decline. So far the UK has failed to meet 11 of those targets, with progress towards the goal of halting seabird decline worsening from the 2012 starting point.

Lead Image: Populations of seabirds such as puffins are key indicators of the health of UK seas and coastal areas. Photograph: Paul Broadbent/Alamy.


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