A huge moment for our struggling seabirds

Tens of thousands of you spoke up in support of ending industrial sandeel fishing, a practice which poses a serious threat to marine wildlife.

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A lone Puffin popping their head from behind a rock with a mouth full of Sandeels.
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UPDATE: We did it! Decades of campaigning have finally succeeded in stopping industrial sandeel fishing in the English North Sea and in all Scottish waters. Read the story now.

For decades we’ve been campaigning to end industrial sandeel fishing in UK waters. This year, the Scottish Government and the UK Government launched game-changing consultations that have taken us crucial steps closer to just that. 

Tens of thousands of you spoke up for seabirds via our e-actions and have shown what a powerful voice we have when we join together. The results are in from the consultation for English waters and they’re really promising. Importantly, there was overwhelming support for a full closure of English North Sea waters to damaging industrial sandeel fishing, with over 95.5% of respondents to the UK Government consultation backing this key measure.

We’re still waiting for the results of the Scottish consultation, but we hope to see the same level of public support for ending industrial sandeel fishing. The combined impact of both consultations could be huge and, thanks to your help, we could finally get these seabird saving decisions over the line. 

Thank you for taking action!

Tens of thousands of you backed proposals to end industrial sandeel fishing via our e-actions. Inspired to take action?

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A crucial lifeline for UK seabirds  

Many of you have already spoken up for our seabirds this year, with an incredible 32,000 people signing our e-action calling for a ban on industrial sandeel fishing in response to the consultation for English waters and over 11,000 people backing the Scottish Government’s proposals to end sandeel fishing across Scottish waters. Your efforts let the UK Government and Scottish Government know the strength of support there is for protecting our seabirds and ocean.  
Industrial sandeel fishing is currently concentrated in the North Sea with huge catches coming from English and Scottish waters. A ban on industrial sandeel fishing by these two countries would be a massive step towards a UK-wide closure given that no industrial sandeel fishing currently takes place in Welsh and Northern Irish waters.  
If these proposals are taken forwards, it will be the single greatest thing we can do right now to help our most threatened seabird species 

Want to stay up to date with this campaign and other important e-actions? Sign up to campaign updates here. 

Easing the pressure 

Puffins, Kittiwakes and other seabirds are facing huge pressures from all angles, such as climate change, unsustainable fishing and an unprecedented outbreak of Avian Flu. With major new offshore energy developments also planned, our seabirds are really up against it.

Now, more than ever our seabirds really need our help to build their resilience. By banning industrial sandeel fishing we can reduce the pressure on this vital food source at a critical time. 

A Lesser Sandeel shoal in waters at Orkney.
How a little fish could benefit us all
  1. Find out why we're fighting to stop industrial fishing of the small-but-mighty sandeel.

Why sandeels are so important 

Sandeels may be small but they’re a big deal for UK sea life.  

The shoaling fish is a vital source of food for many seabirds including Puffins and Kittiwakes which are globally threatened with extinction. Every summer hundreds of thousands of seabirds across the UK rely on them to feed their young.   

They’re also essential food for whales, porpoises, seals and bigger fish, like cod, rays and salmon

A defining moment  

With the UK having left the EU, there are now opportunities to set new rules for fishing and conservation. Now, 2023 must be a year of action for our seabirds. Announcements from both the UK Government and Scottish Government could be defining moments for the future of our struggling seabirds. 

Industrial scale fishing  

Right now, sandeels themselves are under immense pressure. Climate change is the biggest reason for this, but overfishing on an industrial scale is making things worse... 

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sandeels are taken out of the North Sea every year, almost exclusively by EU fishing vessels. Much of the catch is then dried, crushed and turned into fishmeal and fish oil that is used mainly to feed farmed fish.  

Seabirds are struggling  

With sandeels in short supply, seabirds are struggling to find enough food to feed their chicks, and populations are suffering. Just take Kittiwakes, who are ‘sandeel specialists’ and only able to dive to shallow depths to find food. Declines in sandeels is a big reason for UK Kittiwake numbers halving since the 1960s. 
But it's not just Kittiwakes:  
Other species such as Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills can also suffer when sandeel populations are in trouble.   

A lone adult Guillemot stood on a rock next to the sea.

One. Final. Push.

None of the UK Governments support industrial sandeel fishing in UK waters, but they all need to ban it, to actually stop it. A ban in English and Scottish waters would take us a massive way to achieving that. 
The combined 32,000 and 11,000 incredible people who backed our e-actions in response to the UK Government and Scottish Government consultations have shown the power in joining together. Thank you for your help which has taken us a vital step closer to a UK-wide ban  

Want to know more?

Read our blog.  
Take a look at the policy briefing. 
Visit our  Protecting oceans and coasts page

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