Seabird sur­vey

Cyprus Today - - FRONT PAGE - By ANNE CANALP

EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL sci­en­tists from North and South set sail for dual 10-day, round-is­land seabird and ma­rine life sur­veys un­der a three-year bi­com­mu­nal pro­gramme funded by the Swiss-based phil­an­thropic Mava Foun­da­tion for Na­ture.

Sight­ings in­cluded a trio of leap­ing com­mon bot­tlenose dol­phins and new ob­ser­va­tions of the num­bers and habits of flocks of yelk­ouan and Scopoli’s shear­wa­ters and Mediter­ranean shag.

All are threat­ened species listed on the EU birds direc­tive and Bern Con­ven­tion re­quir­ing mem­ber states to mon­i­tor and pro­tect pop­u­la­tions.

The Mava 2016-22 Mediter­ranean Basin Pro­gramme aims to boost pan-Mediter­ranean civil so­ci­ety co­op­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment to counter threats to ma­rine life in­clud­ing over­fish­ing and harm­ful fish­ing prac­tices, eco­nomic crises and dereg­u­la­tion, oil ship­ping and tourism.

A bio­di­ver­sity hotspot with a coast­line span­ning 46,000km, the world’s largest en­closed sea is home to many threat­ened ecosys­tems and 1,900 glob­ally threat­ened species.

The joint sur­vey, im­ple­mented last month through project part­ners the Univer­sity of Ex­eter, Birdlife In­ter­na­tional, the So­ci­ety for Pro­tec­tion of Tur­tles (Spot), Birdlife Cyprus and the Ena­lia Ph­ysis en­vi­ron­men­tal re­search cen­tre, com­pleted op­pos­ing voy­ages of around 650 nau­ti­cal miles.

The So­ci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Birds and Na­ture, Kuşkor, pro­vided ex­pe­ri­enced or­nithol­o­gist vol­un­teers whose costs were cov­ered.

Head re­searcher Robin Snape and his team launched from Gaz­i­mağusa on a yacht owned by Ünal Dede to dock at Kumyalı, the Dip­karpaz seabird an­chor­age, Karpaz Gate Ma­rina, Küçük Erenköy, Girne’s Les Am­bas­sadeurs Ma­rina and Yeşilır­mak.

Mr Snape said: “It’s a unique op­por­tu­nity to get a snap­shot of seabird abun­dance and dis­tri­bu­tion across the is­land at this im­por­tant time. Kuşkor stud­ies have shown that thou­sands of shear­wa­ters pass the north coast in au­tumn. We aim to un­der­stand their dis­tri­bu­tion in re­la­tion to fish­eries, where shear­wa­ters can be caught on long­lines, and shags in set nets.”

A Birdlife Cyprus/Ena­lia Ph­ysis team cast off from Latchi har­bour for Paphos, Pis­souri/Ladies’ Mile, Zygi, Li­mas­sol Ma­rina, Kon­nos and Lar­naca.

Teams of two ob­servers cov­ered al­ter­nat­ing two-hour shifts to mon­i­tor seabirds for eight hours a day, col­lect­ing data to be shared with the Euro­pean Sea Birds At Sea (Esas) data­base us­ing com­pat­i­ble field method­ol­ogy.

More boat-based sea sur­veys are fore­cast for the By­catch and Ar­ti­san Fish­eries re­search project which be­gan in Jan­uary this year and is headed by North Cyprus-based Univer­sity of Ex­eter re­search as­so­ciate Mr Snape.

The project also in­cludes ed­u­ca­tion for fish­er­men, on­board ob­ser­va­tion, sel­f­re­port­ing, pas­sive acous­tic mon­i­tor­ing of cetaceans, satel­lite tur­tle track­ing and new tech­nol­ogy ex­per­i­ments to re­duce by­catch.

Kuşkor ex­pressed thanks to vol­un­teers Damla Be­ton, Sarah Crow­ley, Amie Wheel­don, Nick and Lyn Pe­gler, Olkan Ergüler, Inanç Tekgüç, Doug Rad­ford, Fred Wake and El­iz­a­beth Grace Tunka.

Left, the yacht sur­vey route

Robin Snape and Damla Be­ton on the look out

Yelk­ouan shear­wa­ter Photo: T Had­jikyr­i­a­cou

Scopoli’s shear­wa­ter Photo: Olkan Ergüler

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