Europe and Central Asia
20 May 2014

Seabird sanctuary threatened by luxury hotel

Balearic Shearwater © Ricardo Guerreiro
By Luca Bonaccorsi

Sa Conilera island, one of the best preserved seabird colonies in the Balearic archipelago and home to the Critcaly Endangered Balearic Shearwater, is under severe threat. Plans to build a boutique hotel in the uninhabited reserve have caused alarm acros the Ibicean society. 

A heated debate organised yesterday by SEO/BirdLife and the Ibiza Preservation Fund concluded that the highest level of precaution is needed to avoid irrevocable damage to the island’s biodiversity. «The meeting sends a strong message to the developers and to the Balearic government. – stated Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Europe - Although many in society see money making oportunites in our last wild places, it is encouraging to se that the people of the Balearic archipelago recognise the area’s intrinsic value».

The island is a protected national marine area and is safeguarded by EU law for its seabirds through the Natura 200 network. But all is about to change when the only building on the litlle island, the lighthouse, will be converted into an exclusive boutique hotel. The development and running of touristic infrastructure will disrupt the breeding seabirds, many of which nest next to the lighthouse.

«The hotel will also increase the risk of introducing predators, such as cats and mices, which would prey on seabird eggs and chicks - says Pep Arcos, Marine Cordinator at SEO/BirdLife Spain – with devastating impacts on the population of this species that is already on the brink of extinction».

The development would also be an infringement of European law, a potentialy costly decison for the Spanish government. «Tourism is important, but it should not overide all limits. National governments, shoud not abandon their EU binding commitments, such as the Marine Natura 200 network, in the face of money-making ventures» says Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Oficer at BirdLife Europe.

SEO/BirdLife has already taken its concerns to the developers and the Spanish government, and will maintain the pressure alongside other local NGOs in the hope that the decison will be overturned. Meanwhile, BirdLife Europe will ensure that EU is fully aware of the impending infringement perpetrated by the Spanish authorites. 

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