Murre Conservation Strategy, click to downloadMurres are among the most numerous and widespread of Arctic seabirds, and play important roles in the food webs of Arctic marine ecosystems and in the lives of people in coastal communities.

Two species of seabirds known as murres in North America, and guillemots in Europe and Asia, the common murre/common guillemot (Uria aalge) and the thick-billed murre/Brunnich's guillemot (Uria lomvia), inhabit coastal and offshore marine regions of all northern circumpolar countires.

The goal of the International Murre Conservation Strategy and Action Plan is to facilitate circumpolar implementation of initiatives to conserve, protect and restore murre populations in the Arctic.


Status and Trend

Photo: Ewan Chesser/   

Common murre

  • world population of roughly 12-15 million breeding birds
  • much reduced from estimates of historical figures
Photo: USGS 

Thick billed murre

  • world population estimate 14 million breeding birds
  • Northwest Atlantic populations have declined since 1950s
  • Greenlandic numbers have reduced by more than 50%, and some colonies extirpated


Management Issues and Actions

1. Ensure that consumptive use of murres is managed to be sustainable

  • manage consumptive uses of murres to ensure that harvests are sustainable, and have no impact on other species
  • monitor harvest levels of murres in circumpolar countries and conduct research and population modelling to assess the impacts of these uses on populations
  • wherever shared populations of murres are harvested, harmonize management and harvest regimes to ensure that undue pressure is not placed on shared populations by any country
  • involve local and indigenous peoples in the development of management approaches for consumptive uses

2. Ensure that non-consumptive use of murres is sustainable and takes place with due consideration for conservation requirements

  • manage and promote sustainable and environmentally sound non-consumptive uses of murres
  • develop and implement management plans for specific areas of current or portential eco-tourism activity
  • develop and publicize standard guidelines to minimize the impact of human activities such as tour-boat operations and research at murre colonies

3. Minimize the deleterious effects on murre populations and their habitats from commercial activities and industries in coastal and marine areas, such as shipping and commercial fishing

  • identify, publicize and minimize the impacts of commercial activities and industries on murre breeding habittas, and important areas where murres concentrate offshore
  • implement multi-faceted programs to reduce oil pollution in areas used by murres, and use provisions under the MARPOL Convention or IMP to establish "special areas! or "areas to be avoided" in important pelagic habitat for murres
  • assess and reduce mortality of murres in commercial fishing gear, in cooperation with the fishing industries and national and international managers of fisheries resources
  • ensure that the management of commercial harvests of small fish species used by murres as food provisions for their role in the diet of murres

4. Ensure that murre habitat identification, protection and enhancement measures are undertaken to ensure that the quality and quantity of murre habitat is maintained or restored

  • identify important murre breeding colonies and designate them under national and international systems of protected areas
  • identify important pelagic habitats for murres and promote the establishment of marine protected areas where hunting, commercial fishing and other activities that affect morres are reduced or curtailed
  • contribute to BirdLide International's "Important Bird Areas" system to highlight key areas of importance for murre populations
  • explore the establishment of an international network to identify and protect key breeding, foraging and over-wintering areas for murres, and the linking of protected areas used by the same population of murres in different countries
  • fully assess the importance of, and interactions among, human and environmetnal factors contributing to declines from an ecosystem perspective, before undertaking conservation actions
  • undertake specific habitat and population restoration activities to assest depressed populations to recover where limiting factors can be effectively addresses

5. Implement communications and education programs to ensure public support for protecting murre populations and their habitats

  • determine messages to be communicated, target groups, adn the most effective media, and produce materials to deliver specific messages to the public and special interest gropus, including key elements of murre biology and management concerns
  • emphasize communication of murre conservation requirements and protection guidelines to those who operate ships that may discharge oil at sea, the fishing industry, and tour-boat operators
  • produce educational materials aimed specifically at children, recognizing the importance of getting conservation messages to younger generations
  • issue periodic joint scientific reports on the status of populations, research and other activities relating to murre conservation

6. Facilitate circumpolar coordination of murre research and monitoring programs, to provide the common knolwedge base needed to conserve and manage murres and their habitats

  • coordinate circumpolar murre population monitoring, designate monitoring sites in each signatory country, and report on selected key monitoring data stored in standardized or centralized circumpolar databases
  • conduct research on population demography at monitoring sites, emphasizing work on survival rates, breeding successes and age of first breeding
  • develop a coordinated, circumpolar murre-banding program which prescribes regular banding of murre chicks and adults at olonies, and sharing of banding and recovery data
  • monitor murre feeding ecology and food availability, particularly where forage fish stocks are shared by two or more nations
  • monitor levels of murre mortality due to oil pollution, indicental entrapment in commervial fisheries, and hunting
  • conduct research to develop techniques to reduce entrapment in fishing nets without significantly reducing fish catches
  • develop specific management techniques to restore degraded habitats or depressed populations
  • consider the current or potential effects of global warming and local marine eutrophication on circumpolar murre populations
  • assess the need to conduct research into the genetic structure of murre populations
  • conduct research to define the temporal and spatial distribution and abundance of murres at sea, and factors affecting these


Implementation guidelines

1. Priorities

  • give high priority to action addressing significant levels of murre mortality
  • give high priority to habitat protection for key colonies and foraging areas
  • give additional priority to research and montioring needed to address murre conservation issues
  • give additional priority to action supporting obligations of treaties and agreements

2. Collaboration and cooperation

  • encourage and assist the development and implementation of national murre conservation plans
  • coordinate initiatives among circumpolar countries to address shared murre conservation issues
  • ensure the involvement of other jurisdictions and groups necessary to effectively implement this action plan

3. Reporting

  • meet regularly to revise objectives and actions on the basis of shared information
  • report annually to CAFF on each nationa's progress in implementing this action plan

Arctic States

dk   ca   fi   is   no   ru   sw   usa

Permanent Participants

aac  raipon  icc   GCI Logo Vertical RGB 121x90  aia  saami_councile