The vast majority of vital nesting areas have traffic restrictions on land and in the surrounding waters are in effect from 15 April to 15 July. Photo: Norwegian Environment Agency.

Increased control of traffic restrictions

As the nesting season gets underway now, a ban against going on land or moving about in a number of protected areas along the Norwegian coast will be in effect. The Norwegian Environment Agency will intensify its control of the ban this year.

Seabirds in Norway

Around six million pairs of seabirds nest in areas under Norwegian responsibility. This represents 23 per cent of the seabird population in the Northeast Atlantic.

The seabirds are a vulnerable group of animals that are being pressured by a host of external factors.

Such threats come from oil pollution, environmental toxins, food depletion (resulting from overexploitation), bycatch, human traffic, predators, introduced species, climate change, and habitat destruction and fragmentation.

The seabird population along the Norwegian coast has decreased over time. Encroachment, intrusions, and the lack of access to food are the primary causes of this decline.

Traffic restrictions in nesting areas

As in other regions along the Norwegian coast, many vital nesting areas for seabirds in the Oslofjord have been protected as nature reservations. In the vast majority of these areas, traffic restrictions on land and in the surrounding waters are in effect from 15 April to 15 July.

Seabirds are extra vulnerable during this period, and breaches of the traffic restrictions can severely affect the bird population.

After having received many reports that the traffic restrictions have indeed been violated, the Norwegian Environment Agency, represented by the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO), will intensify its efforts in 2015 to control that the restrictions are adhered to.

- This year we will focus in particular on the protected areas in the Oslofjord. People must respect the ban and be considerate to the nesting birds, says Arnstein Johnsen, section head at the SNO.

Breaches of the traffic restrictions may be reported to the police.

Brooding can be interrupted

Intrusions that cause birds to interrupt their brooding can lead to eggs and hatchlings being snatched away by for example gulls or crows. Increased mortality rates because of both heat and cold can also be the result when brooding is interrupted because of intrusions.

“At worst, the birds might give up nesting and abandon the nesting areas. A series of failed nesting seasons will be detrimental to the population,” explains Knut Fossum, head of the Section of Natural Heritage at the Norwegian Environment Agency.

Access to food is a restricting factor for seabirds along the entire coast, and this also makes the birds more vulnerable to intrusions as they have less energy to complete a nesting season. Also the growth of young birds can be stunted as a consequence. Flight and fight both require a great deal of energy.

- Almost 40 per cent of the seabird species are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In order to protect these birds, we must limit the negative factors that we are able to control, such as human intrusion, Fossum notes.

Not enough to look for birds

Many people believe that it is entirely fine to go on land into a restricted area when no birds are in sight. But seabirds move about from one year to the next. This means that even though no birds are in an area one year, it may well be the case that this area will be used later on.

Even though there is no nesting in an area in a given year, the area might nonetheless be an important resting area for birds that no longer live in the nest, for example young birds or mates.

Posted signs warn potential visitors that an area is protected and that traffic restrictions apply.