Offshore Industry News

Offshore Energies UK and Xodus Launch Offshore Nesting Seabird Census

The offshore energy industry is launching a new Offshore Nesting Bird Census (ONBC) to better understand how endangered sea birds use oil and gas platforms for nesting and rearing chicks.

The aim is to gain insight into geographic distribution of these unconventional breeding sites and how they are used, so new data and knowledge can be shared.

The census which has been created by Dr. MacNeill Ferguson an ecological specialist from energy consultants Xodus, will take place in June 2024. Subsequent annual surveys will provide long-term data highlighting the extent to which birds are nesting offshore.

The initiative has been welcomed by the industry and is supported by the government’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Existing UK data has highlighted the prevalence of kittiwakes nesting on platforms in the Southern North Sea, the area between Norfolk and the coast of Holland. However, other records have shown them nesting on platforms elsewhere off UK coasts.

The population of these distinctive small gulls has declined by 40% in recent years, and they are now on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature red list meaning they are at risk of global extinction.

There is similar concern about razorbills, guillemots, herring gulls and even carrion crows which are also known to use offshore energy platforms to nest.

Much of the North Sea’s oil and gas infrastructure is now being decommissioned and dismantled as UK fossil fuel resources decline. Operators are legally obliged to avoid disturbance to nesting birds during this process and data from the survey will help inform decision making during decommissioning by providing up to date information as well as a unique scientific data source on sea bird behavior.

It is hoped that all 24 Southern North Sea platform operators will take part.

Caroline Brown, Offshore Energies Environment Manager, said: “We are delighted to be involved in the ONBC, which we hope will become an annual exercise. Some UK seabirds are facing a significant decline in numbers, and it is vital to have a better understanding of their nesting behavior in order to help protect them. We are confident the aims of this important survey will appeal to our offshore workforce and have a significant value to scientists.”

Dr. MacNeill Ferguson, Ecological Specialist at Xodus added: “There is a real opportunity here for operators to work collaboratively on a project. Sharing ecological data aids planning and benefits the environment through ecologically coherent decision making. It also provides an opportunity for operators who protect and monitor the birds to record a biodiversity net gain from their presence in the North Sea.”

Our Partners

Frontiers in Marine Science

ECO Magazine is a marine science trade publication committed to bringing scientists and professionals the latest ground-breaking research, industry news, and job opportunities from around the world.


8502 SW Kansas Ave
Stuart, FL 34997

Newsletter Signup

The ECO Newsletter is a weekly email featuring the Top 10 stories of the past seven days, providing readers with a convenient way to stay abreast on the latest ocean science and industry news.