Africa
20 Jan 2015

Plans to save the Near Threatened Cape Verde Shearwater

Workshop participants at Sinagoga fishing community (Photo: Biosfera I)
By Obaka Torto

About 20 participants from Cape Verde , Senegal, South Africa, Spain and Portugal participated in a workshop in Mindelo, Cape Verde , from 1st to 4th December 2014, aiming to develop the Cape Verde Shearwater Species Action Plan.

About 20 participants from Cape Verde, Senegal, South Africa, Spain and Portugal participated in a workshop in Mindelo, Cape Verde, from 1st to 4th December 2014, aiming to develop the Cape Verde Shearwater Species Action Plan.

Cape Verde Shearwater Calonectris edwardsii is, as its name suggests, a breeding endemic to the Cape Verde islands. BirdLife International recently recognised it as a full species, after splitting it from Cory's Shearwater C. diomedea (Hazevoet 1995).  The species is classified as Near Threatened according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014. It is protected by law in Cape Verde (Law 79/III/90).  Unauthorised entrance to the islets of Raso and Branco, where the largest known breeding colonies are situated, is officially illegal, but there are limited means of enforcement or control of that law.  Uncontrolled high levels of harvesting, poaching at main nesting sites, light pollution, invasive species and accidental mortality due to fisheries are the main threats that continue to threaten the species. 

The Ministry of Environment of Cape Verde, in collaboration with a local NGO, Associaçao para Defesa do Meio Ambiente (Biosfera I) and with the support of BirdLife International and International Foundation of Banc d'Arguin (FIBA), organised a four day workshop to identify conservation priorities. 

The goal of the Cape Verde Shearwater Species Action Plan is to improve the Cape Verde Shearwater conservation status, by raising it from the Near Threatened to the Least Concern category. The following high level objectives were agreed upon at the workshop:

  • to reduce chick mortality due to hunting;
  • to improve knowledge of distribution, population size and demographic trends;
  • to restore and protect breeding sites from invasive species;
  • to reduce mortality linked to light pollution;
  • to improve knowledge on mortality in different fisheries; and
  • to reduce mortality of birds in Cape Verde fisheries.

Workshop participants visited the Sinagoga fishing community on Santo Antao Island. This gave everyone a chance to meet the  former poachers of Cagarra (the local name for Cape Verde Shearwater) and to get an understanding of the socio-economics of fishing and poaching. The fishing group is now working with Biosfera by taking the lead in conservation of the species and participating in its monitoring.

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The Species Action Plan is a contribution to the Cape Verde National Strategy for the Conservation of Seabirds and the workshop was developed under the framework for Conservation of Migratory Birds (CMB) in West Africa, coordinated by BirdLife and the Alcyon project of FIBA, funded by the MAVA Foundation.  

The institutions and organisations participating in the workshop committed themselves to implementing some of the activities identified in the plan and also accepted responsibility for communicating it widely to other stakeholders.

 

 Story by Geoffroy Citegetse, Tommy Melo, Ross Wanless and Justine Dossa

 

References: Hazevoet, C. J. 1995. The birds of the Cape Verde Islands. British Ornithologists' Union, Tring, U.K.