Coleridge’s ancient mariner would have had even graver misgivings for shooting an albatross these days. Populations of 17 out of the world’s 22 albatross species face the threat of extinction.

And albatrosses aren’t the only seabirds with sorrows.

The world’s 346 seabird species are seeing alarming population crashes, announced ornithologists from BirdLife International in the journal Bird Conservation International.

Forty-seven percent of marine birds are in decline.

Five percent appear as Critically Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List.

“They are top predators in their marine systems. The fact that almost a third are globally threatened should really be telling us something about how we need to look after where they occur to breed on land and where they go to feed in the ocean,” John Croxall, Chair of BirdLife’s Global Seabird Program, said on the BBC.

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At sea, the main threats to birds are fishermen. Intensive fishing to feed a growing human fancy for fish decimated 10 species of seabird’s feeding grounds. Adding injury to insult, the birds also often die as bycatch when hooked on lines or tangled in nets. Forty seabird species were particularly threatened with death by bycatch.

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Birds can’t catch a break on the beach either. Pigs, rats, cats and other invasive species threaten 73 seabird species’ nesting sites on remote islands, while resorts and ports replace coastal nests of another 14 species. Pollution (30 species), hunting and trapping (23 species), climate change and severe weather (39 species) and other human disturbances also threaten seabirds, according to the report.


A wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) flying in Southern Ocean, Drake’s Passage. (Snowmanradio, Wikimedia Commons)