Good news for Spanish seabirds24/07/2014 10:45:22
The Spanish government has announced the establishment of 39 new marine protection areas which closely mirror the Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas identified by BirdLife International’s Spanish partner SEO/BirdLife after a decade of scientific research tracking seabirds and understanding their behaviour at sea.
The new sites are Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs), designated under the European Birds Directive. The SPAs will offer protection to seabirds whilst they are at sea, complementing the existing network of sites on land.
Spain, with its Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines and islands, is extremely important for European seabirds, including Europe’s most threatened seabird, the Balearic Shearwater, and other species endemic to the Mediterranean, such as the Yelkouan Shearwater and Audouin’s Gull.
Previously, Spain’s network of protected sites for seabirds was made up mostly of small sites at colonies and along coasts and islands.
These sites mostly protect seabirds whilst on land, but do not protect them in the environment where they spend the majority of their time: out at sea.
These new sites, many of which are large in size will add an additional 50,000 sq km to Spain’s protected area network for birds, which is a massive 20-fold increase.
“The announcement is extremely important,” said Asunción Ruiz, Director of SEO/BirdLife. “Now seabirds can be protected when they venture away from the Spanish coast.
“Carefully managed, these sites could make a real difference to the recovery of our threatened seabirds.”
“It is extremely promising that Spain has moved to designate offshore sites and it is imperative for seabird conservation that other countries in Europe follow their example,” added Marguerite Tarzia, European Marine Conservation Officer at BirdLife.
“The addition of these sites means that Spain has gone from lagging behind other EU countries, to being one of the regional leaders in seabird protection at sea.”