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New project to avoid the impact of the fishing fleet on Mediterranean and Atlantic seabirds

Seabirds are the most threatened on the planet due to fishery activity, predation and loss of breeding habitat. Accidental capture of seabirds by fishing and fish farming is one of the most dramatic effects of the impact of fishery and aquaculture business activity. In addition, these bycatches also have a serious economic impact to the detriment of these business sectors.

Assessing the effectiveness of the Spanish protected marine network network and proposing measures to improve fishery and aquaculture management and the conservation of pelagic and coastal seabirds in the Canary Islands and the Levant are the main objectives of the new project led by Jacob González-Solís, Professor at the Faculty of Biology and the Institute for Research on Biodiversity (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona, ​​and funded by the Biodiversity Foundation. Also the partners of the new project are the Association of Naturalists of the Southeast (ANSE), the SEO / BirdLife, the National Federation of Fishermen's Brotherhoods, CarboPesca, the Ebro Delta Natural Park, the Consortium for to the Protection and Management of the Natural Areas of the Llobregat Delta, the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries of the Balearic Government, and the Environment Ministry of the town hall of Gran Canaria.

 Photography: Salvador García (IEO)

Pelagic and coastal birds threatened by fishing gear around the world

Worldwide, incidents with longliners pose a major threat to many species of pelagic birds. In the Mediterranean, incidents from accidental bird capture affect about 5,000 specimens each year. The Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus), the ash shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), the Mediterranean shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and the Corsican gull (Larus audouinii), which are endemic species of the Mediterranean, are the most affected seabirds. This problem could be further compounded by the EU ban on throwing fishing refuse at sea. In the case of the Atlantic Ocean, where catches are often less common, very few studies analyze in detail the interaction process between seabirds and fisheries.

Coastal species, such as the feathered sea urchin (Gulosus aristotelis), are also affected by the interaction with human activities in the marine environment. The most common incidents occur in activities such as aquaculture, recreational fishing and fishing with minor arts such as handles or trout. In this context, identifying the species that are most affected and analyzing how these catches originate is a first step in studying the impact of these activities on the coastal bird population.

Today, the Spanish network of marine protected areas includes a total of thirty-nine areas of special protection for birds (ZEPA) aimed at protecting sea birds from the impact of human activities on the marine environment. However, there are still significant gaps in knowledge that impede effective management planning. For this reason, it is necessary to improve the knowledge on these types of interactions, to spread the problem of accidental catches and to value the network of protected marine areas between the sectors involved in order to harmonize economic activities with the conservation of biodiversity. .

 Identify areas of coincidence between fishing vessels and birds seeking food

 Within the framework of the project, UB-IRBio experts will study the pattern of bird movements through the placement of geolocators (GPS) combined with mobile technology. In close collaboration with the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), the data of the positioning of the operating fishing fleet in the Canary Islands and the Peninsular Levant will also be collected using the VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) and the use of GPS devices that volunteer fishermen contribute to the project. Research work in the Mediterranean will focus on the species of the Feathered Sea Crow, the Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis), the Corsican Gull and the Ashtray. Around the Canary Islands, populations of the Atlantic Ash Shrike and Bulwer Petrel (Bulweria bulwerii) will be monitored.

The Marine Bird Ecology Group led by Professor Jacob González-Solís, of the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, in close collaboration with the Southeast Naturalist Association (ANSE), will also study the intensity of interactions and mortality of coastal and seabirds in open-sea fish farms along the Almería, Murcia and Alicante shores, through a regular census of birds and surveys of facility staff inside and outside the network of spaces protected sailors.

The project, which is supported by the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment, through the Pleamar Program of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (FEMP), also includes The experts include Virgínia Morera, Leia Navarro and Raül Ramos (UB-IRBio), Ángel Sallent (ANSE) and Salvador Garcia (Spanish Oceanographic Institute, IEO).