BirdLife: The Magazine Jan-Mar 2018 - Page 22

THE RED LIST Labrador Current to be considerably warmer than 30 years ago. It is clear that this area – so important for seabirds and used by other highly mobile species – should be protected from encroaching human activities. TOP Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla Photo Frank Fichtmueller/ Shutterstock Expedition leader, Dr Ewan Wakefield, casting a net Photo Marguerite Tarzia 7 The high seas – the large open ocean beyond national jurisdictions – cover about 45% of the Earth’s surface, but responsibility for their protection has long fallen between the cracks of our global governance models. The Oslo-Paris Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) has been leading the charge to rectify this within its region. In October, BirdLife submitted a proposal to OSPAR, demonstrating the need to create a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the mid-Atlantic hotspot -– named North Atlantic Current and Evlanov Seamount High Seas MPA. Though the Convention has already designated seven sites in the high seas to safeguard biodiversity inhabiting the seafloor (such as corals and sponges), the BirdLife-proposed site, if approved, would be the first High Seas MPA in the OSPAR Maritime Area to be based on the foraging grounds of seabirds. International protection by OSPAR could be the first step required for the conservation of threatened seabird species that forage in the mid-north-east Atlantic, including the Black- legged Kittiwake. And the imperative is magnified for species that spend vast parts of their life cycle here. 22 2 Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glaciali Photo Simon Pinder Striped dolphin Guilherme Bortolotto De Oliveira 0 this is a painful lesson in what happens to seabirds when nations take an ‘out of sight out of mind’ approach to conservation The alarming decline of the Black-legged Kittiwake provides a painful lesson in what happens to seabirds when nations take an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to conservation. The nomadic Black-legged Kittiwake cross great swathes of the Atlantic outside of breeding season. Yet each year, less and less are making it back to dry land and the number of chicks produced per nest is in steep decline. Once thriving cliff colonies of thousands in former coastal bastions in Scotland, Greenland and Norway lay barren. On the isles of Orkney and Shetland, numbers have plummeted by 87% since 2000, and in the Hebridean island of St Kilda, the figure stands at 96%. The prospect of entire colonies being wiped out and local extinction is a clear and present danger. This is but one symptom of a greater malaise for Atlantic seabirds across the board – Atlantic Puffin and Northern Fulmar are also experiencing massive declines due to poor adult survival over winter. Conservationists point to climate change: rising sea temperatures are driving catastrophic declines in plankton populations, with a knock-on effect to the rest of the food chain. However, we still need a better scientific understanding of why so many seabirds are perishing on the high seas during winter – or why they are returning to colonies too tired and underfed to reproduce. It is clear that seabird species like the kittiwake – which forages in the proposed MPA all year round – need international protection. birdlife • Jan-Mar 2018