The first global inventory of important sites for the conservation of migratory marine species has been launched, BirdLife International has announced.
The e-Atlas of Marine Important Bird Areas represents a major contribution to marine conservation and a vital resource for meeting the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) target of protecting 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2020. It will also be crucial to the process of describing ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) and will have significant input into the siting of offshore energy infrastructure.
The e-Atlas covers 3,000 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) worldwide. It will provide essential information for: conservation practitioners and policy makers; energy sector planners (windfarms, gas and oil exploration and drilling); fisheries managers; marine pollution management planners; and the insurance industry.
Seabirds are the most threatened group of birds. For example, of the 21 albatross species recognised by IUCN, 19 are considered threatened with extinction, and the other two are near threatened. Seabirds present unique conservation problems, since many species travel thousands of miles across international waters and multiple Exclusive Economic Zones, only returning to land to breed.
“Given the vast distances seabirds cover, the long periods they spend at sea and the multiple threats they face there, identifying a network of priority sites for their conservation is vital to ensure their future survival,” said Ben Lascelles, BirdLife’s Global Marine IBA Co-ordinator.
The e-Atlas represents a breakthrough in the format of BirdLife’s Important Bird Area (IBA) inventories. It will be available exclusively online. Like a Google Map, it will be dynamically updated as new sites are identified and new data about them become available. It will be linked to other BirdLife resources, including species accounts, IBA fact sheets and State of the World’s Birds case studies.
“We hope that the e-Atlas of Marine IBAs will be a key resource for management of the oceans for years to come, and show the wider marine community the benefits that can be achieved when data are shared for conservation purposes,” said Ben Lascelles.