BirdLife Partners from Europe gathered in a two day meeting in Athens, organized by BirdLife International and the Hellenic Ornithological Society, to discuss the amendment of the European Marine Strategy (EMS). This was the first time BirdLife Cyprus was represented at Marine Task Force meetings, where our contribution and work delivery was congratulated.
It was apparent from the discussions that in the last 10 years there has been remarkable progress in pushing seabird conservation forward across the European and Central Asian region by BirdLife Partners and the BirdLife Secretariat. For example: in EU countries where marine IBAs have been identified, over 60% of the marine IBAs are currently protected as Special Protection Areas. Also, there is an EU Seabird Plan of Action, a new EU Common Fisheries Policy which is providing opportunities for bycatch regulations and a Seabird Task Force which for the past three years has been developing bycatch expertise and tests mitigation.
Despite this progress, there still remains much to be done for seabird conservation. Recent Red List updates (and Birds of Conservation Concern–BiE3) indicate that seabirds in Europe, such as the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater are in serious trouble. There are major gaps in our collective knowledge and understanding in relation to European seabirds, including fundamental information on colonies and populations. We also lack information on how seabirds are using offshore and high seas areas of European waters during and outside the breeding season. We lack information on which threats are present within marine IBAs and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and across the at-sea range of seabirds, including where bycatch is happening (and in which gears). We need to make sure that both EU and non-EU countries put strong and effective legislation in place as well as regulations for managing marine resources (including fisheries, marine spatial planning, MPAs).
The updated European Marine Strategy aims to target the main gaps remaining in the ‘core work areas’ (conservation and policy) from previous strategies- marine Important Bird Areas, securing effectively managed MPAs and tackling seabird bycatch- as well as provide the strategic direction for new thematic work including pollution, and develop work linked to other BirdLife programmes. Though the long term vision of the European Marine Strategy is to improve the conservation status of seabirds in Europe there is much to be discussed for its refinement. The updated document of European Marine Strategy should be seen as BirdLife Europe and Central Asia’s overarching marine conservation and policy paper.
Both the BirdLife Secretariat and BirdLife Europe’s advocacy team will work with BirdLife’s new Marine Coordinator to finalize the strategy, which will be adopted by the EU no later than the end of January 2019.