Off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California lives a close cousin of the puffin, the Rhinoceros Auklet. This amazing little bird can dive to more than 150 feet in pursuit of prey, carry 20 fish such as this sand lance in its beak, and dig burrows in the soil with their sharp claws of up to 6 feet long. The chick waits patiently deep within the soil burrow while its parents fly out to sea to look for sand lance, anchovy, saury, and other fish.
Seabirds like the Rhinoceros Auklet rely on small fish, called forage species, to survive – and shortages of these fish have caused many seabird species to decline in recent years. Now, there is a huge victory in reach for protecting the little fish that are a big deal to auklets, puffins, albatrosses, storm-petrels, terns, and many other marine birds.
As you read this, federal fishery managers are considering a new rule that would prevent new fishing on seven groups of key forage species in280,000 square miles of ocean foraging habitat unless it can be shown that fishing will not have an adverse impact on marine species, including seabirds, marine mammals and bigger, commercially caught fish such as salmon and tuna.
This moment is the culmination of a multi-year process where Audubon California worked closely with the Audubon Society of Portland and other chapters, scientists, non-profit organizations, and thousands of people in the Audubon network who voiced support for safeguarding forage fish because of their importance to marine birds.
Please send an email today to ensure that this food for seabirds stays in the ocean.
Marine Program Director
(photos of Rhinoseros Auklet by Andrew Reding)