Keep One Third for the Birds

Photo by rwhgould |

A recent paper published in Science describes the effects of over-fishing on seabirds. According to their findings, when fish populations drop below one-third, seabirds will take a hit as well.

The paper explains this based on the animal's behaviour. When the number of fish available for consumption decreases, it becomes inefficient for birds to raise as many young, and as a result, lowers the number of offspring. The seabirds do this in order to ensure that the eggs that they lay can survive (normally, they would invest less energy and time into more eggs, spreading the wealth amongst more offspring).

Overfishing could create devastating and long-term ripples in the population numbers of the seabirds, and could have cascading effects on entire ecosystems. This particular finding is important for conservation of seabirds, like the Norwegian Puffin, as scientists now know the threshold level for maintaining seabird species.

The authors of the article coined the term “Keep One Third for the Birds”. Other conservational scientists praise this action, citing the importance of catchy phrases to help aid awareness. Fisheries Biologist Steven Murawski of the University of South Florida in Tampa says he likes the motto, as it “gets at the notion that we need to leave a healthy margin of fish in the water. It surely is a great bumper sticker!”

To read the article abstract, click here!