Watchbird January 2022

Cover Story

caused sharp declines in survivability, notably a de- crease from an average of 77 percent chick fledge rate to just 31 percent fledge rate annually. Legisla- tion has reduced the legal take of the herring by fisheries and prohibits the use of trawls near shore that disrupt spawning. (Weinstein, 2021). Unfortu- nately, climate change is warming ocean waters,

(continued from page 13) In 1973, Dr. Stephen Kress founded Project Puffin and over the years he relocated young puffins to the islands and launched innovative approaches to re - establishing Atlantic puffin colonies to their ances- tral nesting habitats. Kress began with the transloca- tion of puffin chicks and constructing artificial bur-

causing some fish species, including Atlantic herring to move away from puffin nesting locations (Kress, Shannon, and O ’ Neal, 2017) This sea surface tem- perature (SST) change and the associated shifts in prey items like (e.g., herring) demonstrates why puffins are particularly susceptible to such environmental changes (Durant et al. 2003).

rows, continuing to adjust his methodology as he gained more experience. Possibly most notable was his successful use of social attraction, a method which uses social cues to attract animals to an area. By us- ing some combination of decoys, mirrors, sounds and artificial nests, the puffins viewed the habitats as suit- able. Kress and the efforts of other biologists saw great payoff with numbers in- creasing in the Gulf of Maine. For example, Ma-

Photos by Deb Dial

chias Seal Island saw a population surge from 60 birds in 1883 to 3,000 pairs in 1999. Another near- by island, increased from 1 pair in 1902 to more than 200 pairs in 2002 (Lowther et al, 2020) Modern Day Puffins Although puffin populations have experienced steady recovery on the North Atlantic coast for most years, today ’ s wild puffin populations are now at risk from overfishing by commercial fisheries, climate change and other human impacts. Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) is a keystone species and one of the puffins ’ preferred nestling food. Commercial fisheries overfished herring in the Gulf of Maine, causing puffins to shift to butter- fish ( Peprilus triacanthus ) to feed their chicks. Re- searchers noticed declines in chick survival and were able to determine that the size and shape of the butterfish were inappropriate for chicks. This

Rhinoceros Auklet

Editor ’ s Note: The AFA conference is in the Washington DC area this year. Consider coming early or staying after and paying a visit to the National Aquarium. It is only about an hour away by car from the hotel and is located at Baltimore ’ s Inner Harbor. The Inner Harbor is a historic seaport, tourist attraction, and landmark of the city of Baltimore, Maryland.

16 Volume XLVIX ● January 2022

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