World Bird News October 2015

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New protected areas announced for seabirds in Portugal

New protected areas announced for seabirds in Portugal

Good news for seabird conservation in Portugal, as the country's government approves the designation of two new Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

As well as the approval of the Cabo Raso and Aveiro/Nazaré sites, two existing SPAs are also being expanded at Cabo Espichel and Costa Sudoeste. The decision was based on seabird monitoring data, collected along the Portuguese coast over the past ten years. BirdLife’s Portuguese Partner SPEA, the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, says the Portuguese Government’s decision is the first step towards comprehensive marine conservation and seabird protection in Portugal.

The new marine protected areas are designated under European legislation (the Birds Directive) and will enhance the conservation of migrating seabirds along the Portuguese coast. This is also a boost to the Natura 2000 network, the EU-wide network which safeguards wildlife protection and habitats. It comes at a crucial time for the network, with the Birds and Habitats Directives (the laws that led to the network's creation) both under the microscope as the European Commission carries out a 'Fitness Check' on them. Nature conservation groups have already urged the Commission not to re-open the directives and also to make sure they are better implemented.

These new and expanded sites will add to the existing Portuguese marine SPA network, offering protection to important feeding and resting areas used by the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater and other seabirds.

Joana Andrade, SPEA’s Marine Conservation Department Co-ordinator, said: “The identification of the proposed sites for SPA designation is based on the work developed by SPEA and different partners who, over the past decade, have focused on seabird monitoring and on the study of their behaviour at sea, under different projects co-financed by the European Union.”

“Seabirds are the most endangered group of birds in the world and the legal protection of these marine areas is essential for seabirds conservation. However, this work can only be achieved through the establishment of appropriate management plans and through a model of public participation, engaging with stakeholders such as fishermen and economic agents among others, since they will be the key agents for the practical implementation of management plans.”

There are around 30 seabird species regular occurring along the Portuguese mainland coast. In addition to the breeding species (such as Cory’s Shearwater and Audouin’s Gull), many other birds use Portuguese waters during their migratory routes and as feeding grounds, resting and wintering areas. Some of these species occur in significant numbers when compared with their European or global populations, including the Northern Gannet and the Balearic shearwater (the most endangered seabird in Europe).

Pacific's Petrels in Peril: a new initiative to save these iconic birds

Pacific's Petrels in Peril: a new initiative to save these iconic birds

For generations of sailors and those who love the sea, seabirds have been their companion, entertainment and shared the times when the seas turn angry. They can be majestic, funny, noisy, mysterious and spectacular. Sprinkled across the tropical Pacific, the innumerable islands of Oceania are home to some of the most unusual bird communities on the planet. The Pacific is the seabird capital of the world. But these companions of travellers, fishers and visitors to the coast are in trouble, especially in the Pacific.

They are more threatened than any other comparable group of birds. And their status has deteriorated faster over recent decades. Many of the birds that live in this region are endangered. Many more have become extinct as a result of human activity, in both recent and prehistoric times. And some really special seabirds are right on the brink of joining the legions of ghosts of past birds.

Over the years BirdLife and its partners have taken actions to protect (and find) different species but the problem is so big we want a Pacific wide strategy for the conservation of this critically endangered group of seabirds. We are calling it 'Pacific Petrels in Peril'.

The petrels, which conventionally include the petrels, shearwaters and storm-petrels belonging to the families Procellariidae, Oceanitidae and Hydrobatidae, have lost far more populations in Oceania than any other bird family. That is why this new programme gives emphasis to this group – the ‘Petrels’. Specific projects that are being developed as part of the strategy for different flagship petrel species will also help other seabird species.

Priority actions will be to find the breeding sites of Fiji Petrel, Beck's Petrel and Heinroths Shearwater. Overall there are more than 18 species for whch action is needed including Vanuatu Petrel, Collard Petrel, Polynesian Storm-petrel, Tahiti Petrel, Phoenix Petrel and Tropical shearwaters. And probably more.

Most islands in Oceania have not had systematic surveys of breeding seabirds. While there are some threats at sea for seabirds breeding in the region, the primary threats are on land. Until we can eliminate predation pressure and the degradation of nesting/roosting colonies and establish these as secure sites there will be no improvement in their conservation status.
The help of seabird lovers the world over is needed to develop the first coherent and comprehensive plan for the conservation of Pacific seabirds. With your support we will find the breeding sites to allow conservation action to make them safe, confirm the population status of species and develop conservation plans for each of them. We will also improve the current conservation work, and where we need to start new actions. This intiative is bigger than BirdLife and we will work with other organisations, develop networks for improved communication, resource sharing, capacity building and further project development.

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The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World Bird News 2015 |  World Bird News October 2015

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