Page last updated at 06:58 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 07:58 UK

Count records decline in seabird

Whitefish in a boat's hold
Discards from whitefish boats are often snapped up by fulmar

A reduction in the size of the Scottish whitefish fleet may be linked to a fall in numbers of a seabird, a conservation charity has said.

The John Muir Trust said a count of fulmars at Cape Wrath found 261 pairs on cliffs that once supported 700.

The birds often feed on fish discarded by fishing boats.

However, a decline in the numbers of vessels following European restrictions on catch sizes could be contributing to a famine.

Cathel Morrison, conservation manager for the trust's Sandwood Estate at Cape Wrath, said: "It looks as though the fulmar, one of our most common and resilient sea birds, is in as much trouble as other species such as puffins, kittiwakes, guillemots and arctic terns."

In 2005, seabird colonies in Scotland were said to have suffered one of the worst breeding seasons on record.

Reserves run by RSPB Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) recorded major failures of some species.

Breeding was poor in guillemot, puffin, kittiwake and razorbill colonies, particularly in the west coast reserves.

Almost half of all seabirds in the EU nest around the coast of Scotland.

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