RSPB hopes Bempton seabirds will benefit from sandeel fishing ban


The RSPB has said that it hopes the recently announced ban on sandeel fishing in the North Sea will boost seabird numbers at the famous Bempton Cliffs colony.

The announcement in January that industrial sandeel fishing will no longer be permitted in English waters was seen as a crucial step towards safeguarding seabird populations – and it has now come into force.

Officials at Bempton Cliffs RSPB said sandeels are a vital source of food for half a million seabirds which breed on the cliffs at the reserve. 

Kittiwake is one of several seabird species that breeds at Bempton Cliffs (Bethan Clyne).


Seabird increase

Visitor experience officer, Poppy Rummery, said: "It (the ban) has been a long time coming and we've noticed, as we see the impact of climate change, that sandeels are moving further north to colder water. That, and the overfishing, is having an impact on bird numbers.

"Hopefully, they'll now have more food when they are out their fishing for their chicks and themselves, which should increase population numbers.

An effective ban on sandeel fishing has been in place since 2021, but the UK Government announced plans to extend the restrictions earlier this year. The new regulations include foreign vessels and place more stringent restrictions on bottom trawling in the North Sea.

Ms Rummery added: "The number of chicks the Kittiwakes have been rearing has gone up but it's still not where it needs to be. We had the best breeding success rate last year but the population is still going down.

"Normally, they'll lay two or three eggs but we're seeing only one survive. It will take a couple of years to see changes."