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Marine Science



New study on fisheries impact on seabirds. According to an article on the Barcelona University website, seabirds are the most threatened birds in the planet due to the fishing activity, predation and loss of breeding habitat. The bycatch due fishing and fisheries is one of the most serious effects of the impact of fishery activity and aquaculture companies. Also, these bycatches create a serious economic impact in these sectors.

Assessing the efficiency of Spanish protected marine spaces and proposing measures to improve the fishing and aquaculture management and conservation of marine pelagic and coastal birds in the Canary Islands and Levantine are the main objectives of the new project led by Jacob González-Solís, professor at the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona, funded by Biodiversity Foundation.

Other partner entities in the new project are the South Western Association of Naturalists (ANSE), SEO/BirdLife, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Brotherhoods, CarboPesca, Natural Park of Ebro Delta, the Consortium for the Protection and Management of Natural Spaces in Delta del Llobregat, the Council of Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries of the Balearic Islands Government, and the Council of Environment in Gran Canaria.

The accidents with liner boats represent one of the main threats for many pelagic bird species. In the Mediterranean, the bycatch-derived incidents with birds affect about the 5,000 birds every year. The Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus), the Scopoli’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), the Mediterranean shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) –endemic species in the Mediterranean- are the most affected marine birds. This problem could get worse with the European Union’s ban on throwing fishing waste to the sea. In the Atlantic Ocean, where bycatch is less common, there are only a few studies analysing the process of interaction between marine birds and fisheries.

Coastal species, such as the European shag (Gulosus aristotelis) are also affected by the interaction with human activity in the marine environment. The most frequent incidents occur in activities such as aquaculture, recreational fishing and fishing with minor arts such as handles. In this context, identifying the most affected species and analysing how these accidents happen is the first step to study the impact of these activities on the population of coastal birds.

These days, the Spanish Network of Protected Marine Areas includes a total of thirty-nine areas of special protection for birds (ZEPA) aimed to protect marine birds from the impact of human activity on the marine environment. Also, there are important voids that prevent an efficient planning of this management. Therefore, the knowledge on this interaction needs to improve, as well as the dissemination of the problems on bycatch and valorisation of the network of protected marine areas among the involved sectors so as to harmonize economic activities with biodiversity conservation.

As part of the project, the UB-IRBio experts will study the patter of movements of the birds through global positioning systems (GPS) combined with mobile technology. In a collaboration with the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), they will gather data on the location of the operational fishing boats in the Canary Islands and peninsular Levantine area through the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and GPS carried by volunteer fishers.

The research study in the Mediterranean will be focused on the European shag, the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis), Audouins gull and the Scopoli’s shearwater. In the Canary Islands, the study will monitor the populations of Scopoli’s shearwater in the Atlantic and the Bulwer’s petrel (Bulweria bulwerii).

The Research Group on Ecology of Marine Birds, led by Professor Jacob González-Solís, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, in tight collaboration with the South-eastern Association of Naturalists (ANSE), will also study the intensity of interactions and mortality of marine and coastal birds in offshore fisheries in Almeria, Murcia and Alicante, through the regular census of birds and surveys to the staff inside and outside the network of protected marine areas.

Other participants in this project, which counts on the support from the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment, through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Pleamar Program (FEMP), are the experts Virgínia Morera, Leia Navarro and Raül Ramos (UB-IRBio), Ángel Sallent (ANSE) and Salvador Garcia (Spanish Institute of Oceanography, IEO).



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