In parts of its range, ivory gull numbers have fallen rapidly (4). For example, surveys of breeding colonies in Canada in 2002 and 2003 revealed that populations had declined by 80 percent since the early 1980s (5). These declines are believed to be the result of a number of factors (4). During the breeding season, the ivory gull is very vulnerable to the impacts of human activities, such as natural resource exploration and extraction. Not only do these activities generate noise and pollution, but they often bring with them long-term camps of workers, attracting predatory mammals and birds to areas where they were previously absent (3). Climate change is also believed to be affecting the ivory gull’s habitat. A significant amount of data now suggests that sea surface temperatures are rising in Arctic seas, while the thickness and extent of sea ice is decreasing, causing a reduction in the pack ice that the ivory gull so heavily depends on for much of the year (3).
Furthermore, as ivory gulls scavenge on marine mammals, they are potentially susceptible to high levels of toxic pollutants accumulating in their bodies. For example, research on eggs collected from Seymour Island, Canada, showed that levels of mercury steadily increased between 1976 and 2004, reaching levels which are now among the highest measured in sea bird eggs. These levels of mercury are believed to be high enough to have detrimental effects on the ivory gull, such as impaired reproductive success (3). Finally, in Canada, the ivory gull is still hunted (3).
Despite the population declines and numerous potential threats, the ivory gull is only classified as Near Threatened as in some areas the status of the ivory gull is poorly known and further surveys are required in order to determine the true scale of population declines (4).