Global Issues for, and Profiles of, Arctic Seabird Protection: Effects of Big Oil, New Shipping Lanes, Shifting Baselines, and Climate Change

  • Grant R. W. Humphries
  • Falk Huettmann


The Arctic is a delicate and changing ecosystem that is home to a variety of species, many of which are threatened. With the opening of the Northwest Passage as the result of an increasingly iceless Arctic, political and economic pressures will inevitably have impacts directly affecting wildlife and habitats. Seabirds that nest on Arctic islands and spend the majority of their life at sea are important indicators of marine systems, and widespread population decreases have been described. The lack of sea ice (= the essence of an Arctic ecosystem) will make such decreases worse. This chapter briefly discusses issues around seabird management in the Arctic, particularly focused on anthropogenic impacts such as oil development, shipping, and climate change. Specific topics covered include a short history of Arctic seabird management, the importance of open access data for seabird research and management, attraction of seabirds to and pollution from ships and oil platforms, potential impacts of oil spills, and the question of who will and should manage Arctic seabird populations effectively. A global overview of “seabirds as indicators” while baselines are shifting and trophic cascades occur in the ocean is provided (authored by Eric Woehler). It is recommended that to ensure the protection of seabirds in the Arctic, a minimum of six actions be followed: (1) establishment of statistically reliable baseline datasets, (2) increase in oil spill response and research, (3) much stronger sanctions against polluting vessels, (4) formation of an international management regime that can delineate meaningful marine protected areas, (5) increase in research for climate change mitigation of seabird populations, and (6) review and formation of an International Biodiversity Protection Treaty enforced by all Arctic Nations.


Oily Sludge Seabird Population Glaucous Gull Ivory Gull Black Guillemot 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are very thankful for the contribution made by E. Woehler (who also kindly provided the Textbox). F.H. appreciates the earlier communications and discussions on the (polar) seabird management subject with many experienced, sophisticated, and devoted people worldwide, including D. Ainley, A.W. Diamond, D. Carlson, O. Gilg, Yu Artukhin, I. Jones, H. Gundersen, B. Best, V. Spiridonov, B. Raymond, V. Wadley, M. Riddle, C. Zoeckler, K. Saitoh, M. Gavrilo, D. Cairns, T. Gaston, G. Divoky, M. Schmid, C. Fox, D. Kawai, P. Paquet, A. Bond and B. Bluhm. This is EWHALE Laboratory Publication #105.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Sustainability: Agriculture, Food, Energy and Environment, University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.EWHALE lab- Biology and Wildlife DepartmentInstitute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska-FairbanksFairbanksUSA

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