Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys, in flight Southern Ocean nr South Georgia

Saving seabirds globally

The RSPB hosts the BirdLife International Marine Programme, which works to address the decline of international seabirds.

A global effort

Many seabirds, particularly albatrosses and petrels, have undergone rapid population declines, making them the most-threatened group of birds and leaving many species close to extinction.

These declines are often closely linked to the expansion of commercial fisheries in seabird feeding areas, combined with the impacts of invasive alien species at nesting colonies. Many seabird species range widely across the world’s oceans, so seabird conservation issues need to be addressed globally.

The RSPB hosts the BirdLife International Marine Programme, which works to address these declines following both top-down and bottom-up approaches. Influencing international policy is vital for securing conservation management for far-ranging seabirds – but working on practical solutions with fishermen and others is needed to find and implement the right management measures.

In response to the huge numbers of seabirds being killed accidentally in longline and trawl fisheries, the BirdLife International Marine Programme launched the Save the Albatross Campaign in 2000.

Marine Important Bird Areas

BirdLife International's Important Bird Areas programme looks to identify and protect a network of sites critical for the long-term health of bird populations.

The Important Bird Areas programme began on land (and included seabird colonies) but has been extended to the marine environment.

Four kinds of Important Bird Areas cover seabirds away from their breeding colonies, and these are:

  • Critical at sea areas used by ocean-going species
  • Migration bottlenecks
  • Non-breeding (coastal) congregations
  • Seaward extensions to breeding colonies to include major foraging areas

The work to identify marine Important Bird Areas is helping other global initiatives to protect and sustainably manage the oceans, including helping to create Marine Protected Areas.

BirdLife Partners all over the world have contributed to a global e-atlas of these sites – more than 3,000 sites have been identified (and still growing)!

Tracking Ocean Wanderers

The Tracking Ocean Wanderers Database is the result of a pioneering initiative, involving scientists from around the world.

In 2004, BirdLife International published Tracking Ocean Wanderers: the global distribution of albatrosses and petrels.

This report was the result of a unique collaboration between scientists worldwide, analysing the results of satellite-tracking data to reveal the distribution of albatrosses and petrels across the world's oceans.

The Tracking Ocean Wanderers Database is the biggest seabird tracking database in the world – and work is underway to include more seabird species.

By mapping the overlap between seabirds and fisheries, the results are being used to target conservation efforts where they are most needed.

Results presented to Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, especially the world's five tuna commissions, have been key to introducing measures to reduce bycatch in these fisheries.

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Advocacy with fishery managers

 Albatross Task Force instructor Meidad Goren observes while longline fishing gear is being deployed.

We work with fishery managers at national, regional and international levels.

Marine and coastal publications

Herring gull Larus argentatus

A number of publications are produced relating to our global seabird programme work. The most recent online publications can be found here.