The Belgian coastal zone lies on the east side of the North Sea; although small it comprises several important habitat types including very shallow sandbanks that supports a range of seabirds including the Black Scoter (NT). A scientific survey is on-going to look at extending the SCI Trapegeer Stroombank towards the Hinder Banks; evidence suggests that giving this area SCI protection will also enrich the basis of the marine ecosystem thereby benefiting marine and coastal seabirds.
Current threats to seabirds in the Belgian North Sea include:
o Industry including mineral extraction
o Shipping interactions and pollution
o Eutrophication as a result of the influx of nutrients
o Recreational disturbance
The BirdLlife Partner for Belgium, Natuurprunt , has several recommendations based on scientific evidence:
o Further designation of marine SPAs and IBAs which should focus on areas with high seabird density and diversity as well as feeding areas
o The designation of the areas Vlakte van de Raan and Baai van Heist as MPAs
o Designation of Blue Belts, specially designated areas comparable to IUCN Category IV-VI where some human use of the environment is allowed
Government's support/relevant policy
Several MPAs exist within the Belgian 12 nm territorial limit comprising; one area under the Ramsar convention, several areas under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives and one marine reserve. In 2001 a Royal Decree was issued in Belgium legally protecting all birds in the marine waters. Three SPAs have been proposed in Nieuwpoort, Ostend and the harbour of Zeebruge to target the protection of the most suitable habitats for seven specific seabird species: Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Great-crested Grebe, Common Scoter, Little Gull, Great Skua and Little Tern. Please see policy tab for list of agreements that this country is party to.
Petrels and shearwaters
Gulls and terns
Ducks, geese and swans
o Haelters, J., Vigin, L., Stienen, E., Scory, S., Kuijken, E., and Jacques, T. (2004). Importance Ornithologique des espaces marins de la Belgique. Bulletin de L?Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique. Vol 74 Suppl., 90 pp.
o Slabbinck, B., Verschoore, K., Van Gompel, J., and Hugenholtz, E.,( 2008). Natuurgebieden in de Noordzee voor natuur n mensen. Kustwerkgroep van Natuurpunt, Oostende, Belgium, 13 pp.
o WWF (2009). Towards Good Environmental Status . A network of Marine Protected Areas for the North Sea. WWF Germany, Frankfurt am Main 2009
o OSPAR MASH 07/6/Info.2-E. OSPAR Recommendation 2003/3: possibilities for the implementation in Belgian waters. Presented by Belgium
BirdLife International (2013) Country profile: Belgium. Available from: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/country/belgium. Checked: 2013-12-07