How It’s All Connected: Terns and Eels
So rampant overfishing is said to be devastating the world’s fisheries, triggering collapse in certain fish populations and destabilizing the food web. What should that matter to terrestrial folk? What if you live far from the coast and don’t much care for fish? I’m afraid you still can’t afford to ignore the bad news. Declining fisheries, according to author Charles Clover in an interview in Salon.com, have dire implications even for birds:
I went to the Shetland Islands and a terrible thing was happening. The sand eels that live in the North Atlantic — the sand eels on which the Arctic terns that migrate thousands of miles depend — didn’t come back that year. So the Arctic terns were starving and chicks were dying. It was all heartbreaking stuff.
As it turned out, fishermen were catching the sand eels, mashing them up and turning them into feed for salmon farms. And they were doing that right under the cliffs and on the beaches where the birds were starving. The sand eel at the time was the No. 1 forage fish for the fish industry and I heard via the bird network that they caught so much in Denmark that they were feeding the fish oil to power stations to make coal burn better.
The Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) is one of the most phenomenal migratory species of any order in the world, with aÂ continuous, global, circumpolarÂ breeding cycle. Elders of this long-lived species will, over the course of two decades or more, travel well in excess of 500,000 miles on migration, more than enough to take it to the moon and back. While this adaptation offers a tern access to prolific provisions everywhere it visits, the initinerant lifestyle also exposes a bird to a plethora of threats. IfÂ the migratory route of the Arctic Tern is envisioned as a chain that wends and weaves its way around the world, what happens when even a singleÂ link in a chainÂ is shattered? Like it or not, it’s all connected.