From Iceland — Puffin Population Declines By 70%

Puffin Population Declines By 70%

Published May 23, 2023

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Iceland’s Atlantic puffin population has experienced a significant decline of 70% in almost thirty years, reports RÚV. This decrease is far greater than previously believed.

Iceland is home to a substantial portion of the global puffin population. While the puffin population is relatively large compared to other bird species in the country, it has been facing severe challenges.

Biologist Erpur Snær Hansen says that new figures indicate that the puffin population has shrunk by 70% since 1995, rather than the previously estimated 40%.

“We had not previously analyzed population trends dating this far back, so it was quite alarming to discover that the situation is much worse than previously thought,” says Erpur.

Erpur explains that while puffin populations naturally fluctuate over time, the current decline appears to be unprecedented. “This recent decline and the consecutive delays in nesting and low numbers of fledglings have not been observed in the 140-year history we have studied.”

The primary reason for this decline, according to Erpur, is primarily the lack of food for the birds, which can be attributed to warming sea temperatures. However, at least 10% of the responsibility lies with puffin hunting.

Erpur emphasises that no hunting of puffins is sustainable, despite the recent decrease in scale. “Hunting populations that are already in decline is not a sound approach,” he says.

“This spring, in collaboration with the Environment Agency and scientists, there was a discussion regarding the impact of implementing a sales ban, as protecting this species is crucial. It appears that unrestricted hunting goes against common sense,” adds Erpur.

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