7 Jun 2017
By Gui-Xi Young
A new scientific paper, spearheaded by our Head of Conservation, Iván Ramírez, has been published in the peer-reviewed journal ‘Marine Policy’. This study summarises the latest country-by-country and species-specific analyses of the EU’s marine SPA (Special Protection Areas) network and offers critical new insights into how well Europe is protecting its seabirds.
With oceans covering 71% of the Earth’s surface, it is small wonder that our little home in the solar system is often called the ‘Blue Planet’. Yet so much of our ocean environment remains a mystery. But indeed, isn’t that the romance of the big blue expanse that we are celebrating today, on ‘World Oceans Day’. A romance that has inspired explorers from Cook to Cousteau, storytellers from Homer to Hemmingway…and, of course, conservationists seeking to fathom the depths.
Sadly, on the flip side, the conservation of marine biodiversity is – in the words of Ivan Ramirez, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Europe & Central Asia – “a challenging enterprise”. To say the least. Many marine species are incredibly difficult to observe or track and there is an inherent lack of data and research resources in many countries, both here in Europe and globally.
The Desertas petrel…all at sea
Take the Desertas petrel, for example, a recently split species listed as Vulnerable because of its small population. Ramírez and his colleagues have been tracking this species yearly since 2007, and have now accumulated one of the largest tracking datasets of any gadfly petrel in the world (available at seabirdtracking.org)! What the tiny loggers attached to the bird’s legs revealed to them was quite amazing: from its remote breeding grounds in Bugio Island (Madeira), the Desertas petrel performs a truly Atlantic “tour” with individuals wintering in as many as five different locations, identified in Cape Verde, Brazil, Argentina and Florida. Ramírez has also found that these birds are very loyal to their winter grounds – that is, if a particular bird likes the Brazilian Coast, it will go there every single year.