BirdLife Partners working across the Mediterranean to protect seabirds
Seabird and marine conservation experts are gathering this week in Hammamet, Tunisia to discuss the current knowledge of seabirds and the key threats they are facing.
BirdLife is represented at the workshop by its Partners within the region, including Amis des Oiseaux- BirdLife in Tunisia, and BirdLife Morocco (GREPOM) and from its European Partners SEO/BirdLife in Spain, BirdLife Malta and the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) in Greece. This workshop, organised by the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) and MedMaravis, provides an excellent opportunity for experts across the Mediterranean, to share their experiences tackling seabird conservation.
Marguerite Tarzia, BirdLife’s European Marine Conservation Officer said ‘‘Mediterranean Seabirds do truly face pan-Mediterranean threats, such as overfishing, bycatch, invasive predators, habitat destruction because of ill-planning and marine pollution. International meetings such as this one are the most effective way to collaborate on protecting this incredibly rich sea.’’ As a key follow up to this meeting, BirdLife in conjunction with BirdLife Malta will hold another International workshop on Mediterranean Seabird Conservation on the 23rd-27th November, which will focus on protecting seabirds across National boundaries and international waters of the Mediterranean and will examine the key threats and the most effective routes and mechanisms for protection.
BirdLife’s knowledge of and experience with seabirds is vital to effectively tackle conservation at a regional scale. Dr Benjamin Metzger, Head of Research at BirdLife Malta said, “We have just finalised three years of intensive research in Malta tracking Yelkouan Shearwaters, and now looking into identifying those sites which need to be designated for the conservation of this species. The project will be overseeing the designation of the very first Marine Special Protected Area sites for Malta.”
In 2014, Spain announced the creation of 39 new Special Protection Areas at sea, based on SEO/BirdLife’s marine IBA inventory. This dramatically increased the amount of sea being protected in Spain. In relation to protecting the most threatened seabirds, such as the Balearic Shearwater however, there remains much to be done across the region. Pep Arcos, SEO/BirdLife Marine Coordinator, said “Despite recent research on the Balearic Shearwater suggesting a larger population than previously expected, but this does not reflect an increase, only a better assessment. On the contrary, this species is still suffering a sharp decline, and the mounting evidence points to bycatch as the main cause. If we do not tackle this threat, the species will be lost within the next century.”
The accidental capture of seabirds in fishing gear remains a key threat to many Mediterranean seabirds. BirdLife is working to understand the scale of the problem and begin to look for solutions to prevent seabirds being killed. While some work has been done in small areas to quantify the problem, at a regional level little is known about how many birds are caught and there has never been a concerted approach to tackling this issue across the Mediterranean.
BirdLife has recently launched the European Seabird Task Force to begin to tackle seabird bycatch in the region in a consistent and collaborative manner. Bringing our international experience from the Albatross Task Force, which works in southern Africa and South America, our expert team of observers are working collaboratively with artisanal demersal longline fishermen in the Spanish Mediterranean to understand the problem and to find effective and appropriate solutions to reduce the numbers of seabirds killed. BirdLife aims to expand the scope of this work across the Mediterranean
BirdLife’s Partners in the Mediterranean are extremely active in seabird conservation, and many of them will be presenting the results of their work this week. Check it out!
· The Hellenic Society for Ornithology (HOS) are surveying seabirds in Greece following on from a recent LIFE project on seabirds, and working on management of protected marine sites and monitoring of seabirds at sensitive development sites such as Athens Airport.
· BirdLife Slovenia (DOPPS) is completing an EU LIFE project (SIMARINE-NATURA) to identify marine sites for protection for the Mediterranean Shag.
· In Italy, LIPU is identifying marine Important Bird Areas for breeding Scopoli’s Shearwaters.
· In Croatia, BIOM is mapping wintering seabirds along its coastline to assist protected area designation and working on island restoration projects for the breeding Common Tern
· SEO/BirdLife has been championing the conservation of the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater, with monitoring of colonies in the Balearic Islands as well as working on marine protected area management through the recent INDEMARES project. Currently, with BirdLife, they are implementing the Seabird Task Force-along a section of the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
· BirdLife Malta is currently completing its EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project, which will see the identification of marine Important Bird Areas (marine IBAs) for the endemic Yelkouan Shearwater both within and beyond Malta’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
For further information on BirdLife’s seabird and marine work, and our upcoming workshop, visit our website or contact Marguerite Tarzia - the European Marine Conservation Officer.