EU countries host 67 species of seabirds, including endemic and threatened ones, that visit our shores to breed and/or winter. The encroachment of human activity within the habitats seabirds use at land and at sea poses a great danger, with some species being threatened. Being the primary food source of seabirds, it is critical that the marine environment is protected, and activities such as fishing and industrial infrastructure are managed.
The assessment in BirdLife Europe’s new report sheds light on which Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas for Seabirds are currently protected under the Natura 2000 network’s Special Protection Areas in all the 22 EU countries with coastal seas.
As part of the European Natura 2000 network, the Special Protection Areas (SPAs) provide essential protection to the most important areas for seabirds. In line with the goals set within the EU Biodiversity Strategy which call for an increase to 30% of EU seas protected by 2030, a significant expansion of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is needed. In 2019, this sat at 11%. By completing the marine Natura 2000 network, the EU has a chance to achieve this target.
The new report highlights the progress made since 2014 on SPA designation and the gaps that need to be filled to complete the SPA network at sea. The new evaluation underlines that to achieve the new targets, further sites at sea need to be identified and designated, and good management with science-based conservation objectives and efficient monitoring put in place. BirdLife calls on EU countries to use this assessment as a guide to identify and designate important areas for seabirds to ensure timely protection is put in place and secure their future in European waters.
Locally, Birdlife Malta’s projects have supported the designation of SPAs in Malta. Through innovative research and monitoring, the LIFE+ Malta Seabird project which wrapped up in 2016 identified areas at sea essential for Malta’s seabirds and resulted in the designation of Malta’s first eight marine SPAs within the Natura 2000 Network. The organization continues to work hard on addressing threats at sea for seabirds such as bycatch, which is one of the focal actions within the LIFE PanPuffinus! project that commenced in 2020.
Read the full report from BirdLife here.
Find out more about BirdLife Malta’s current LIFE PanPuffinus! seabird project here.
By Manya Russo, LIFE PanPuffinus! Project Manager; and Marc Schruoffeneger, Seabird Conservation Assistant