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Location Latvia, Talsi district,Ventspils district
Central coordinates 21o 51.00' East  57o 47.00' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4ii, A4iii, B1i, B1ii
Area 145,000 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2000

Latvijas Ornitologijas Biedriba

Site description The strait connects the Gulf of Riga to the open Baltic Sea. It comprises the coastal waters lying between Ovisi village and Cape Kolka, and extending from the shore of Kurzeme county to the offshore border with Estonia. Sand and gravel are the main bottom sediments. The benthic fauna is dominated by shellfish Macoma. The main marine-traffic routes from the Baltic Sea to Estonian and Latvian ports in the Gulf of Riga pass through the strait.

Key Biodiversity The strait supports internationally important concentrations of several seabirds in winter, e.g. Gavia stellata, G. arctica, Clangula hyemalis, Melanitta fusca and Cepphus grylle. There are also large concentrations of Mergus serrator and M. merganser. Species of global conservation concern that do not meet IBA criteria: Haliaeetus albicilla (wintering).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Northern Pintail Anas acuta passage  1995  600 individuals  medium  B1i  Least Concern 
Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis passage  1999  2,500-4,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Mute Swan Cygnus olor non-breeding  1999  500-2,000 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus passage  1999  200-300 individuals  medium  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Greater Scaup Aythya marila passage  1986  20,000 individuals  medium  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Melanitta fusca non-breeding  1999  79,000-191,000 individuals  medium  A4i, B1i  Not Recognised 
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis winter  1992-1993  309,000 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Vulnerable 
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula passage  1999  1,000-4,500 individuals  good  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Smew Mergellus albellus passage  1995  290 individuals  medium  B1i  Least Concern 
Smew Mergellus albellus winter  1994  360 individuals  medium  B1i  Least Concern 
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata winter  1992-1993  2,800 individuals  medium  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo passage  1999  1,000-2,000 individuals  good  B1i  Least Concern 
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle winter  1992-1993  3,400 individuals  good  A4ii, B1ii  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds non-breeding  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Sand dunes & beaches  -
Sea Open Sea; Sea inlets and coastal features  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
urban/industrial/transport major
fisheries/aquaculture major
tourism/recreation major

Protection status National None International None

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Irbe strait. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife