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Seabird Monitoring

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been circulating in seabirds throughout summer 2022 and has caused concerning levels of mortality in some species. Our advice to BTO/JNCC Seabird Monitoring Programme volunteers has now been added to the general advice published by BTO. For this reason, we have updated our statement on HPAI activities.


JNCC has a long history of involvement in monitoring seabirds both at their breeding colonies and at sea.

Annual colony monitoring

Through the Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP), annual monitoring of 25 species of seabird that breed regularly in Britain and Ireland has been undertaken since 1986.

From July 2022, the annual monitoring scheme is organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in partnership with JNCC, and with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) as an associate partner. It is supported by Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland, and a wider advisory group. Close collaboration with organisations in the Republic of Ireland enables all-Ireland interpretation of seabird trends.

Prior to July 2022, the Seabird Monitoring Programme was co-ordinated by JNCC (and its predecessor NCC), through the SMP partnership, which consisted of 19 organisations.

The most recent results from the SMP, published in 2021, and covering the period from 1986 to 2019, are available to view on the JNCC website, along with links to previous updates.

Further information, including how to take part and how to access data collected through the scheme, can be found on the BTO website.


Periodic Seabird censuses

In addition to the annual counts at a sample of colonies provided through the Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP), periodic breeding seabird censuses are required to add context and help to identify why changes might be happening. These population-level surveys also give us the opportunity to understand how breeding seabird numbers might be changing on a spatial scale. This is especially important when considering inland and urban breeding species, which are rarely monitored annually.

To date, there have been four completed breeding seabird censuses. The results of the fourth census, Seabirds Count, were published on 16 November 2023.


Seabirds at sea

Since 1979, JNCC has conducted surveys of seabirds and cetaceans at sea from ships and aircraft. In 2019 the volunteer seabirds at sea (VSAS) monitoring scheme was launched to help continue the collection of seabirds at sea data in UK waters. JNCC offers training on the standardised survey methods of European Seabirds at Sea (ESAS) for both volunteers and for commercial accreditation.


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