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31 Oct 2014

High hopes for meeting on migratory species

The Convention Migratory Species provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. (Snow Geese. Ken Slade; flickr.com)
By Martin Fowlie

Bird and animal species don’t recognise political boundaries so how does the world try to conserve migratory species?

As an environmental treaty under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a species’ migratory range.

BirdLife Partners are taking part in the Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP11) which is taking place in Quito, Ecuador, from 4 to 9 November 2014.

The agenda of CMS COP11 may be the most significant ever for the conservation of migratory birds. COP11 is expected to adopt, for the first time, potentially important frameworks for flyway conservation, including intergovernmental working groups and task forces designed to help the implementation of measures to address the key threats to migratory birds. There is a resolution to adopt global guidelines on stopping the poisoning of migratory birds and continuing the global Preventing Poisoning Working Group which developed them.

These guidelines cover insecticides, rodenticides, poison baits and also call for a complete ban on lead ammunition and, at least in freshwater habitats, lead fishing weights. This working group is also one of the ways the Partnership is hoping to achieve a complete ban on veterinary diclofenac – which has caused catastrophic declines in vultures in Asia and which has now been licensed in Europe.

The second main resolution of interest to BirdLife is the establishment of a global Energy Task Force, which initially will focus on African-Eurasian birds. This will help implement global guidelines on renewable energy which it is hoped COP11 will adopt, together with previously endorsed guidelines on powerlines.

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A resolution to establish a Pan-Mediterranean Task Force on the illegal killing, taking and trade of birds is also being discussed. This is tied into many existing BirdLife Partner initiatives already in existence, and will strengthen and help coordinate these.

Finally, a resolution to adopt an action plan for African-Eurasian Landbirds is up for grabs. Perhaps surprisingly given our knowledge of these birds there is currently no framework to address declines.

“It is essential that we plug this gap for landbirds as they are the group of birds declining fastest in Europe”, said Nicola Crockford, International Species Policy Officer at the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). “The development of this action plan has been revolutionary. It has been the African nations that have called for and driven its development, with support from Switzerland. ”

The conservation of migratory landbirds needs to be tackled on a broad front, in a very different way to waterbirds, where connected sites can be protected. What is needed is to influence large scale land use decisions for the benefit of both migratory birds and local people.
A particular focus of this implementation is likely to be trying to influence land use in Africa, in collaboration with poverty alleviation, food and water security, anti-desertification and climate change mitigation communities.

“If we get this right then it’s a win-win situation for birds and people”, concluded Crockford. “These proposed frameworks should also substantially assist the European Union’s efforts to conserve migratory birds within its territory, and to ensure that these efforts are not undermined through damaging activities elsewhere along the flyway.”

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