Several seabird populations in the Barents Sea region are of international importance. The most numerous species are: Brünnich´s guillemot (Uria lomvia); little auk (Alle alle); Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica); black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis); and common eider (Somateria mollissima). An important part of the global breeding population of the rare ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea) is found within the northern part of the region — in Svalbard and Franz Josef Land.
Among the more than 30 seabird species breeding and wintering in the Barents Sea region are seven Red-listed species, including: two from the global list (IUCN, 2015); six from Norwegian Red List (Table 4.3.6); and three from the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation. Four other species of concern are listed in the Annex to the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation. The only species listed in all three categories of the Russian Red lists is the ivory gull. Major threats limiting population development of Red-listed seabird species are: fisheries (competition for the resources and by-catch in gill-nets); environmental deterioration (pollution, habitat destruction, and disturbance); and climate change (Anker-Nilssen et al., 2000). Fishing is the major factor currently affecting half of the Red-listed seabird species; followed by environmental pollution — especially, oil pollution as a potential threat. While climate change will likely become more important in the future, currently it is only considered important for the ivory gull. Since seabirds are migratory species, causes of their unfavourable population status may lay beyond boundaries of the Barents Sea region.
The Steller's eider (Polysticta stelleri) is classified as globally threatened, and thus is a species of global conservation concern (Tucker and Heath, 1994). It is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, 2015). Significant numbers of this rare and declining seaduck winter along the coast of Finnmark and the Kola Peninsula (Anker-Nilssen, 2000; Systad and Bustnes, 1999; Krasnov, 2004; Zydelis et al., 2006). The population in the Barents Sea region is mainly a wintering population, but recent satellite tracking indicate that the species may breed on the west coast of Novaya Zemlya. Important moulting and staging areas are on the west coast of Vaigach Island, Novaya Zemlya, and the Murman coast (Krasnov et al., 2007; Petersen et al., 2006). Recent data indicate that the King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) may be decreasing in Norwegian wintering areas (Systad unpublished data); status of this species is uncertain, and needs to be followed closely.
The ivory gull breeds sporadically in Arctic archipelagos (ca. 25% of the world population); Greenland seabirds migrate through the area. The population trend over the last 15 years in the Russian part of the Barents Sea (Franz Josef Land and Victoria Island) is uncertain in general, but believed to be fluctuating or decreasing. Ivory gulls depend on the ice habitat and sympagic invertebrates and fishes throughout the entire annual cycle. Ice habitats in the northern portion of the Barents Sea recently vary considerably: with the area of summer ice cover decreasing; and the ice edge retreating to the north. This is believed to be the major reason for the abandonment of the breeding colony on Victoria Island. In other part of the breeding grounds, the population is likely to fluctuate in numbers and alternate its distribution patterns. This species is found to have high mercury (Hg) contaminant loads, and very high loads of dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Data on reproduction parameters, food availability, and migration patterns dynamics are currently unavailable. Population numbers, local breeding distribution, food availability, and reproduction parameters are all expected to fluctuate in the future in response to local ice and snow conditions.
The white-billed diver (Gavia adamsii) is red-listed in Russia, and breeds sporadically in single pairs within the Russian zone. Most of the East Atlantic Flyway population winter in coastal waters off Norway, and some in Russia (off Kola Peninsula). No data is available on population trends, habitat dynamics, or key biological parameters. No reliable data are available to establish any future projection for the breeding period, but some data exists on the wintering distribution in Norway (www.seapop.no).
European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) is red-listed in Russia as a rare species. Areas along the Murman coast form the only Russian breeding grounds, and represent the easternmost border of the species range. The population is estimated at 350-400 breeding pairs (b.p.). During 1930-1980, both a positive population trend and an expansion of breeding range were observed. In recent years, decade a slightly decreasing population trend has been observed at the easternmost part of East Murman. Food availability varies between years and affects local distribution of breeding birds, breeding performance, and reproductive success.
In Norway, the mainland population of the common guillemot (Uria aalge) is listed as critically endangered (CR). Black-legged kittiwake, common tern (Sterna hirundo), and Atlantic puffin are all listed as vulnerable ((VU) Kålås et al., 2006). In Svalbard the ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea) is listed as endangered (EN), and the common guillemot is listed as vulnerable (Kålås et al., 2006). No other seabirds are listed in the three top categories (CR, EN, and VU) in either Norway (including Svalbard) or Russia (Kålås et al., 2006). In Norway, several seabird species are listed in the two lower categories of the red list; near threatened (NT) and data deficient (DD) (Table 2.4.7).
Species for which Norway has a special responsibility — with a minimum of 25% of the European population either breeding or wintering in Norway — include: three breeding populations of seabirds (great black-backed gull Larus marinus, black-legged kittiwake, and Atlantic puffin); and wintering populations of: great northern diver; great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo); European shag (P. Aristotilis); Steller's eider; king eider; and red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator). All of these species/populations inhabit the Barents Sea region either year round or during one or more seasons. Species for which Russia has special responsibility — with a minimum of 25% of the European population breeding or wintering in the Russian zone of the Barents Sea — include: breeding populations of ivory gull and king eider; and wintering populations of Steller's eider and (probably) king eider.
Several seabird populations in the Barents Sea region are of international importance. The most abundant species are the Brünnich´s guillemot (Uria lomvia), little auk (Alle alle), Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), and common eider (Somateria mollissima). An important part of the global breeding population of the rare ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea) is found within the northern part of the region: at Svalbard and Franz Josef Land.
*A new edition of the Red Book of the Russian Federation (RF) is being prepared, where there will be some changes to the list and categories of some species, subspecies, and populations of animals. However, while the book is under preparation, this text is using the current Red Book of the RF (2001).
Table 4.3.6. Species on the 2010 Norwegian Red List considered threatened due to negative population trends by category: critically endangered; endangered; or vulnerable. From Meld.St.10 (2010-2011) —Norwegian Ministry of the Environment (NMD, 2012).