08-06-2016

SEO Birdlife is a national organisation dedicated to bird conservation which was founded over sixty years ago. To tie in with today's World Oceans Day and its theme of "healthy oceans, a healthy planet", the organisation has drawn attention to the facts that a third of the known 346 types of seabird are at risk and that the global population declined by around 70% between 1950 and 2010.

In urging the need for healthier seas to ensure seabird conservation, the organisation explains that Spain has the greatest diversity of seabirds in the European Union, with more than forty species regularly to be found and more than twenty which nest on the coasts. Among these, the bird which is most under threat is the Balearic Shearwater. As there are only some 3,000 pairs, which breed exclusively in the Balearics, the bird population is in a state of "serious decline". If the current rate of loss continues, it could be extinct within sixty years.

The head of SEO Birdlife's marine programme, Pep Arcos, says that the bird is one of the clearest examples of the threats faced by many seabirds. These include being accidentally caught and water contamination from heavy metals, hydrocarbons and plastics. There are also threats on land. The Shearwater had evolved with natural predators, but the introduction of cats and rats created these.

The organisation is engaged in a project that tracks the reproduction of the Shearwater and, on account of World Oceans Day, it is has called for special attention to be paid to plastic pollution of the seas. Plastic waste degrades very slowly and particles can make the bird confuse these with food.

In Spain there have been significant steps taken in recent yeas to conserve seabirds. Among other measures these have included the extension of protected marine areas to 8%, with five per cent of this dedicated to zones of special protection for birds. A further one has been a European plan to minimise accidental catches by the fishing community.

Pep Arcos observes that, despite these efforts, the conservation of seas is far from adequate. "They are subject to endless human pressure from pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing, alien species and climate change."

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