Saltee puffins appear to thrive despite fears
With recent reports indicating that the Atlantic puffin may face extinction, the breeding colony on the Saltee Islands appears to be thriving.
The distinctive seabird was recently added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of species at risk of being wiped out. However, although numbers are plummeting in Britain and Scandanavia, experts say that numbers in the Saltees and elsewhere in Ireland are steady.
'Temperatures in the North Sea are rising and plankton is moving to colder waters. The sand eels are then following it to areas out of the range of breeding puffins. In addition, humans are using sand eels as cow feed and fertiliser,' explained Birdwatch Ireland Conservation Officer Niall Hatch. 'For some reason, waters don't seem to be affected around Ireland.'
Although Niall said that a 'significant' breeding puffin population is thought to remain on the Saltees, he said that Irish surveys are 'long overdue'. According to him, it's 'too early to say that it's safe' here for the birds.
'The decline in the North Sea has been so rapid that we need to watch for signs,' he explained.
Though it's difficult for the public to help the birds, Niall feels that more can be done to promote their importance.
'The Saltee Islands are one of the best places in Ireland for puffins and probably the second most accessible,' he said. 'Much more can be done to promote them as a potential tourist draw. They're something that Ireland should be very proud of.'