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State of the Birds Report

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National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Mission: To understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our nation’s economic, social, and environmental needs.

  NOAA and Oceans and Coasts at a Glance

• NOAA protects, preserves, manages, and enhances the resources found in 3.5 million square miles of coastal and deep ocean waters. These publicly owned, federally managed areas provide important habitats for some of the world’s largest concentrations of birds.

• NOAA has a variety of statutory mandates and agency policies to conserve, protect, and restore wildlife and fishery resources, including migratory birds and important forage or habitat resources within federally owned or managed coastal and marine environments.
  Image: Laysan Island by D.A. Polhemus, USFWS   

Stewardship of Birds

• NOAA manages coastal and oceanic
habitats that are vitally important for a
variety of birds including albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, storm-petrels, pelicans, cormorants, murrelets, puffins, and skimmers.

• NOAA also manages coastal wetlands and intertidal habitats in cooperation with the USFWS, NPS, BLM, and others, to protect vital habitat for coastal waterfowl, wading birds, and shorebirds.

• NOAA’s stewardship responsibilities include partnering with USFWS in the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, a multilateral agreement among 13 countries to conserve 29 species of albatrosses and petrels by coordinating international fishing activities that threaten these populations.

NOAA and Bird Conservation

NOAA considers seabirds to be well-known indicators of ecosystem condition. As part of NOAA’s strategy to sustain the health of our living oceans, seabird data are obtained from oceanic research and by monitoring fisheries bycatch (the unintended take of birds and other organisms during commercial fishing).

This information can improve ecosystem-based management and reduce impacts to seabirds. For example, predictive models can address the effects of climate change or contribute to marine spatial planning. By sharing data with partners, NOAA hopes to improve bycatch reduction efforts and management of seabirds and their important habitats globally.

The overall protection of the oceanic resources within designated Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is vital to improving migratory and foraging habitats for birds. An MPA is an area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, territorial, tribal, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein.

Under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA establishes National Marine Sanctuaries in areas that have special conservation, recreational, or cultural qualities. The system includes 13 sanctuaries and one Marine National Monument.

The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is the single largest conservation area managed under U.S. ownership. It encompasses an area of the Pacific Ocean that is larger than all U.S. National Parks (139,797 square miles), and is managed by USFWS, NOAA, and the state of Hawai‘i in coordination with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The monument protects habitat for more than 20 species of seabirds. About 5.5 million seabirds nest on these islands annually, including more than 97% of the world’s Laysan and Black-footed albatrosses, species of high conservation concern.

Seabirds congregate around fishing vessels
for feeding opportunities. These birds are
deterred from etnering a zone where they
may be vulnerable to becoming bycatch by
the use of paired streamer lines. Photo by
Ed Melvin, Washington Sea Grant
Conservation in Action: Working with Fisheries to Reduce Bycatch


The NOAA Fisheries’ National Seabird Program monitors and reduces seabird bycatch in U.S. marine fisheries, works to reduce seabird interactions in international fisheries, and promotes the importance of seabirds as ecosystem indicators and a vital component of healthy oceans. In 2001, NOAA Fisheries began implementing the National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries.


In some areas where bycatch of seabirds is well documented, measures have been taken to reduce interactions. Federal and state agencies and Sea Grant programs worked together with fishermen to explore new gear designs and examine fishing practices in an effort to develop fisheries that keep or improve target fish catch rates while reducing seabird bycatch.

For example, longline fishermen off Alaska are now using lines with streamers trailed behind the vessel to deter birds from approaching baited hooks as the line is being set. In Hawaii, pelagic longline fishermen must comply with NOAA Fisheries’ seabird mitigation measures, which have reduced incidental interactions with seabirds by more than 90 percent. Species that have benefited significantly include Laysan and Black-footed albatrosses.



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