Identification 1.5: Marine IBAs
Until recently, the main focus of IBA identification has been on terrestrial environments (including inland and coastal wetlands). Extending IBAs into the marine realm is important but poses both conceptual and practical challenges.
Criteria for marine IBA identification and delimitation are under active discussion within BirdLife. Recent meetings have helped to refine the process and suggest some appropriate IBA threshold numbers and a variety of marine IBA delimitation methods. These are currently being tested within BirdLife before wider application is proposed. Criteria are being developed for the following situations:
1. Seaward extensions to breeding colonies. These include coastal foraging and maintenance areas for both short ranging species (e.g. terns, gulls and cormorants), and longer ranging species (e.g. larger penguins, gannets and albatrosses) which, while chicks are young, may travel up to one hundred kilometres from the colony on a single trip. These sites would be contiguous with existing IBAs, and would therefore require extending IBA boundaries into the marine environment. The seaward boundary would, as far as possible, be colony and/or species-specific, based on known or estimated foraging and maintenance ranges.
2. Coastal congregations of non-breeding seabirds. These would include, for example, areas used by foraging and/or moulting sea-ducks.
3. Migration bottlenecks. These include places through or around which large numbers of seabirds pass regularly, such as straits, headlands etc.
4. High seas sites. These cover foraging areas for pelagic species, often on highly productive shelf-break areas, eddies and upwellings, which are likely to be non-contiguous with breeding colonies, as they may lie hundreds of kilometres away, for example, in the Humboldt Current, the Patagonian Shelf, the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone, the Benguela Current and the Canary Current.
An initial list of candidate marine IBAs within the existing IBA dataset has already been compiled, and this summarises those IBAs considered marine because of the seabird breeding colonies they contain, and/or because of significant areas of marine habitat within them. These sites are being verified by Partners.
Many existing candidate marine IBAs could be protected more effectively by inclusion in the IBA, where possible, of some or all of the foraging area used by the breeding birds. The BirdLife Secretariat has started collating data on seabird foraging ranges and work is underway by a number of Partners to trial the distances proposed for extensions. Guidelines are planned that will be provide advice and examples on how to apply the findings in practice. These will cover situations where site or species data are deficient (necessitating the use of surrogate data from other sites and / or species) and how to apply foraging range data at sites where different seabird species breed.
Identifying and then effectively protecting IBAs on the high seas presents many challenges, due to knowledge limitations and practical issues, but remains a priority strategy for pelagic seabird conservation. Habitat features that may prove important in this respect are oceanographic features such as bathymetry, temperature and salinity. Responsibility for designating IBAs on the high seas, if this proves appropriate, will be led by the Secretariat through the Global Seabird Programme. Designation of IBAs within territorial water will be led by the country concerned.
- Towards the identification of marine IBAs in the EU (PDF, 1MB)
- Conserving our seabirds: how to identify Important Bird Areas in the marine environment, Vilanova i la Geltrú, Spain - 13-16 November 2005 (PDF, 280KB)
- Implementing Natura 2000 in the marine environment. International workshop, September 2005, Lisbon. (PDF, 365KB)
- Implementing N2000 in the marine environment: Marine IBAs: Lisbon-Vilanova conclusions (PDF, 156KB)
- Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (PDF, 2.5MB)
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