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Africa
20 Feb 2015

Conservation plug-in charges efforts to save West Africa's seabirds

Northern Gannet is one of the species to benefit from this work (Victor; flickr.com)
By Martin Fowlie

Efforts to save West Africa’s disappearing seabirds are to be given a boost thanks to an ambitious monitoring initiative which will help identify and protect the areas in which they forage and overwinter.

The Alycon Project, a collaborative conservation initiative first taken on by The FIBA Foundation, aims to identify critical sites for seabirds, including a host of threatened albatross and petrel species. Though the project began in 2013, the day-to-day running of the project will now be taken on by BirdLife.

West Africa’s seabirds face a familiar problem. Though they spend much of their time on shore protected within Marine Protected Areas, the areas in which they forage are largely unknown, often existing outside of protected waters. Palaearctic migrants are an additional concern, given that so many are known to overwinter in unprotected coastal wetlands. Identifying the sites of value to West Africa’s seabirds is a vital first step in their conservation.

By taking on management of the project, BirdLife will channel its existing expertise in monitoring seabirds and designating Marine and Important Bird Areas - a wise use of vital conservation resources. Extra staff will join BirdLife to ensure that new sites identified receive the protection they deserve, plugging into BirdLife’s existing Global Marine Programme.

Possible threats to West African seabirds from local fisheries will also be investigated, with an opportunity for further African countries to work in a way that is modelled on BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force.

BirdLife International would like to thank the MAVA Foundation, and in particular the former FIBA staff members who have supported our efforts and collaborated so openly, to effect a seamless transition for Alcyon to BirdLife International”, said Dr Ross Wanless of BirdLife South Africa. “We look forward to continuing a productive relationship and working towards the improved conservation of the marine biodiversity of the West African waters.”