Fishing slashed Peruvian bird populations

April 30, 2004 at 7:48 PM
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SAN DIEGO, April 30 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists said Friday that bird populations in Peru have declined dramatically over the past 40 years because of fishing activities.

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, said although in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tens of millions of marine birds lived in the so-called "Bird Islands of Peru" and became famous around the world. This was due partly to their appeal as a visual spectacle and because they became economically important as high producers of guano -- droppings that the country mined and exported around the world for fertilizer.

But the populations of these famous birds have declined dramatically over the past four decades, the scientists said, largely because their once-plentiful main food supply, anchovies, has been severely reduced by the Peruvian fishing industry.

The Peruvian anchovy fishery, the largest single-species fishery in the world, significantly increased production in the 1950s and '60s, exporting millions of tons of anchovies per year. In the decades that followed, seabird populations declined significantly.

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