The intimate relationship of Britain and Ireland to their surrounding seas has meant that seabirds have long been a part of the culture of these islands. In historical times (and to a very limited extent in modern times) this relationship was one of exploitation by humans of seabirds as a source of food or feathers. As the necessity to use seabirds for these purposes declined in the 19th century, so the appreciation of their intrinsic value rose. Fears of over-exploitation, particularly as a source for feathers, coupled with evidence of decline at the massive colony of seabirds on Flamborough Head in north-east England, led both to the foundation of the organisation that is now the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and to some of the first bird conservation legislation. The evidence of decline was based on diminishing harvest returns, and this might be argued as being the first evidence of seabird monitoring in the UK. Some seabirds are comparatively easy to count at their colonies, and these started to attract the attention of biologists in the early part of the 20th century. Gurney (1913) published on the Northern Gannet Morus bassanus population, while Fisher (1952) compiled a massive work on the spread of the Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis. Following these leads, Coulson (1963) organised a count of Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla colonies in 1959. Such population censuses were widened to include all seabirds in Operation Seafarer in 1969-70 (Cramp et al. 1974).