The marine environment of the Atlantic Frontier region north and west of Scotland, the focus of recent oil exploration, hosts internationally important concentrations of seabirds. Twenty-three species breed in colonies on the coasts and islands that rise from these waters and a further 25 species use them for feeding at various times of the year. The importance of these populations are set in an international context and their composition and occurrence in the deep waters of the Atlantic Frontier and adjacent continental shelf waters, as revealed by 20 years of at-sea surveys, is described. Deep waters are especially important for procellariiformes whereas shelf waters are important for all species, and overall seabird diversity is greater in shelf waters. The effects of oil pollution on seabirds can be severe, and although the effect of pollution in deep, oceanic waters might be minimal, prevailing currents and winds might result in greater impacts on more westerly, shelf waters. While the perceived threats from oil exploration in the Atlantic Frontier might be small, the important seabird assemblage in the region should be considered in future exploitation of hydrocarbons here.
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