Why are Atlantic puffins in danger?
The global population of the Atlantic puffin is in decline. Warming waters, overfishing and pollution have all played a factor in the lovable animal receiving a Vulnerable status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Yet in Iceland, which outwardly celebrates the species as a national icon, hunters continue to kill hundreds of thousands of puffins annually with little oversight. The country's traditions and the financial incentive of selling puffin meat to restaurants motivate the hunts.
Meanwhile, off the southern coast of Iceland, a more constructive ritual involving the Atlantic puffin takes place. On the island of Heimaey, children go on "Puffling Patrol", to help puffin chicks who fly into town after being disoriented by the island's lights. The wayward birds are then taken to the local aquarium, where they are measured and tagged, before being guided back to the water.
Unless current trends are reversed, both traditions will be in jeopardy. It's all too familiar a story for Atlantic puffins, which were virtually exterminated by hunters in Maine by the turn of the twentieth century, before Steve Kress led a restoration program to right the wrongs humans had inflicted on the species. This time, it's Iceland's responsibility to help stem the extinction of an animal species loved the world over.
In under a minute, you can help make a difference by signing a Care2 petition to protect the Atlantic puffin. Restaurants selling puffin to tourists are also a driving force for hunters looking to make a profit. Avoid establishments that serve puffin and stand against travel bloggers who promote eating puffin.
Tell Iceland's president Jóhannesson to protect their puffins, not kill them.
Vulnerable seabirds belong in the wild, not on dinner plates.
Watch videos of puffins being puffins.