Trends in oil rates of beached seabirds reflect temporal and spatial patterns in chronic oil pollution at sea. We analysed a long-term dataset of systematic beached bird surveys along the Belgian North Sea coast during 1962–2015, where extreme high oil contamination rates and consequently high mortality rates of seabirds during the 1960s used to coincide with intensive ship traffic. In the 1960s, N90% of all swimming seabirds that washed ashore were contaminated with oil and estimated oil-induced mortality of seabirds was probably several times higher than natural mortality. More than 50 years later oil rates of seabirds have dropped to historically low levels while shipping is still very intense, indicating that chronic oil pollution has significantly declined. The declining trend is discussed in the light of a series of legislative measures that were enacted in the North Sea region to reduce oil pollution.
- Sea and coastal birds
EWI Biomedical sciences