In recent weeks, thousands of sick, dead and dying common guillemots have washed up on the Wadden Islands and the Dutch mainland coastline. Birds that strand alive are transported to animal rehabilitation centres while dead birds are being collected in order to determine their cause of death.
While peaks in guillemot strandings are relatively common after periods of prolonged severe weather, the current numbers have not been seen in years. High mortality rates were first seen on the Wadden Islands in January, but has since spread to the rest of the Dutch coastline. Neighbouring countries do not appear to have a higher mortality rates among seabirds, suggesting that the problem is specific to the Netherlands. The current mortality rate may be influenced by local factors other than extreme weather at sea alone. It is therefore important to determine the underlying causes of this mass mortality event.