Oregon hosts some of the highest densities of colonial nesting seabirds on the West Coast, yet they are one of the most threatened groups of birds. Help Portland Audubon in our efforts to protect these incredible birds in our nearshore waters and beyond. Our specific efforts focus on protecting seabird prey, limiting human disturbance, and protection of imperiled species like the Marbled Murrelet.
Seabird Importance and Threats
The Oregon coast supports approximately 1.3 million nesting seabirds of 15 different species, with roughly 400 nesting colonies dotted along the coastline. This represents about half of all seabirds that nest on the West Coast of the continental U.S. Oregon’s native seabirds include species like the Common Murre, Brandt’s Cormorant, the endangered Marbled Murrelet, and seabird species of conservation concern highlighted in Oregon’s Nearshore Strategy like the Brown Pelican, Caspian Tern, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, and Tufted Puffin.
As a top predator in the ocean food web, seabirds are a valuable indicator of marine health, but nearly half of all seabird species are known or suspected to be experiencing population declines globally and in North America. These declines are caused by a number of factors including:
- Overfishing of seabirds’ main food sources, particularly of “forage fish” – small, schooling fish like anchovies and sardines that are a critical link in the marine food web for seabirds, marine mammals, and larger fish.
- Human disturbance and invasive species
- Fishing gear bycatch: trawling, longline, and gillnet fishers kill an estimates 700,000 seabirds every year
- Pollution (e.g. plastic ingestion, oil spills)
- Climate change via sea level rise, ocean acidification, and seabird die-offs related to the “warm blob”
Portland Audubon’s Work to Protect Seabirds
In 2016, Portland Audubon and partners including Pew Charitable Trusts, Audubon California, and Oceana secured a huge win for forage fish species, gaining federal protection under a new rule from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that bans fishing on forage fish species like Pacific sand lance, several types of smelt, and squid and also limits allowable bycatch of these species in existing fisheries. The same year, Portland Audubon and partners were able to extend these protections into state waters by working with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a forage fish management plan.
We have been advocating for decades to protect the ESA listed Marbled Murrelet and through outreach, policy, and advocacy efforts we lobby for strong state and federal level regulations to further protect seabirds.
How You Can Help
- Stay tuned for action alerts for public comment to decision-makers
- Get involved in one of our coastal community science projects