Drop in puffin numbers for 2018 census causes concern

Scientists are concerned about a sudden drop in the number of puffins on Britain's Farne Islands.

They're blaming it on climate change and fear the species could be wiped out completely if the trend continues, ITV News reports.

The Farne Islands are known for their seal and seabird colonies, and tens of thousands visit the coast every year.

Puffins are one of the most iconic of the animals on the island, but early results from 2018 puffin census suggest the population has dropped by around 12 percent.

The last time a census was conducted was around 2013, when 40,000 birds were counted. If the final number this year is 12 percent lower across all of the UK then the puffin population will be at its lowest in 25 years.

"There are several factors that can impact on puffins. Overfishing is one of them. There is a global decline in puffins and its felt that climate change is the driving force behind that," National Trust ranger Tom Hardy told ITV News.

"Essentially it's a combination of warmer seas, which make their food source, sand eels, go further north, and more extreme weather as well."

The birds are already on a British Trust for Ornithology's red list and are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Final numbers on the puffins will be known within the next four weeks, but there are concerns if the decline is confirmed and continues, the species will disappear in the next few decades.