New guidelines bring hope for world's seabirds
BirdLife has taken a major step towards the identification of Marine Important Bird Areas (mIBAs) for seabirds around the globe. “We now have agreed guidelines which can be used to track seabirds and analyse the data to identify Marine IBAs for any seabird species”, said Ben Lascelles – BirdLife’s Global Marine IBA officer.
The world’s oceans are seriously under-protected. Just 0.65% of the global ocean is within protected area systems, and most of that is within the first miles of the shore. As a result, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development set a target to establish a globally representative network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2012. However, the IUCN estimates that unless progress is accelerated, this goal will not be met until 2060 - half a century late.
Identifying and protecting Marine Important Bird Areas (mIBAs) for seabirds around the globe will make a vital contribution towards the global MPA target, and is a key focus for BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme.
“Seabirds have deteriorated in IUCN Red List status faster than any other group of bird species” —Ben Lascelles, BirdLife’s Global Marine IBA officer
“Seabirds have deteriorated in IUCN Red List status faster than any other group of bird species”, said Ben. “As well as continuing the implementation of bycatch mitigation measures, we urgently need to protect their habitats if we are to stop and reverse these rapid declines”.
However, seabird conservation presents some unique challenges, not least because many species spend the majority of their lives at sea. Therefore to identify Marine IBAs, BirdLife has been refining methods developed for land and freshwater sites to ensure they work in the marine environment.
In order to achieve this, BirdLife recently organised a series of workshops which were attended by 50 seabird tracking experts from around the world. Workshop delegates compared the merits of different methods used to study the movements of seabirds, and tested the best ways of analysing the datasets gained from such studies.
“Our new guidelines can be used to follow seabirds and analyse the data to identify Marine IBAs”
“Our new guidelines can be used to follow seabirds and analyse the data to identify Marine IBAs, and represent a major step towards establishing a global network of representative MPAs for seabirds”, noted Ben.
BirdLife and its Partners are now focussing upon getting the outcomes of the workshops endorsed by the CBD at the upcoming September meeting in Ottawa, Canada. This meeting will consider the criteria, and methods, for identification of biologically and ecologically significant areas on the high seas. “BirdLife’s input will be to apply the new methods to some examples from the BirdLife Tracking Ocean Wanderers dataset which includes detailed information of the movements of 30 Globally Threatened seabird species”, concluded Ben.
BirdLife Marine IBA workshops were held in: Chize, France (hosted by CNRS); Lisbon, Portugal (hosted by SPEA / BirdLife in Portugal); and Barcelona, Spain (hosted by SEO / BirdLife in Spain). Funding and support for the workshops was kindly supplied by Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation, EU LIFE projects, the Wallace Research Foundation and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).
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Credits: Global Seabird Programme