When we talk about conserving habitat, the images that come to mind are forests, streams, and grasslands. But what about the world’s most important habitat for hundreds of bird species—the earth’s vast oceans?
Many seabirds, including puffins, are spectacularly mobile, traveling thousands of miles in the waters between continents, returning to land only to breed. Given the long periods these birds spend at sea, the threats they face, and the distances they cover, identifying a network of priority sites for their conservation in marine habitats is vital to ensure their future survival.
That is why Audubon scientists from California to Alaska have spent the past three years identifying the areas of highest importance for marine bird breeding, feeding, and resting. Our Pacific Flyway experts have mapped 216 new and potential globally signifi- cant marine Important Bird Areas from Barrow to Baja that are home to more than 33 million seabirds from 150-plus species. And, since Audubon is BirdLife International’s U.S. partner, those marine IBAs join a network of more than 3,000 candidate areas identified worldwide.
Seabirds are among the most beautiful and threatened of birds; the majority of albatross and petrel species are in danger of extinction. The list of threats facing seabirds is long and formidable, and includes habitat loss, dimin- ished forage-fish food sources, oil and gas development, fishing, shipping and oil spills, ocean trash, and invasive species. And the chal- lenges will continue to grow as climate change affects our oceans and coastlines.
Identifying the most important areas of our shores and oceans is a first step in making sure those places do not disappear. But we also need international cooperation. You can help by asking your members of Congress to support the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, which provides the legislative framework for the United States to implement an international treaty that more than a dozen coun- tries have already signed. It would showcase U.S. leadership on this issue—our fishing fleet already uses easy-to-implement, low-cost solutions that are 97 percent effective in reducing avian mortality from longline fishing. Inexpensive, bird-scaring lines and line weighting can greatly reduce seabird mortality and save bait—a win-win for fishermen and birds. Passing this legislation is the first step in giving our negotiators the leverage they need to press other countries to implement these same commonsense measures.
It would require no new regulations and no new expenditures from the budget. And this legislation enjoys bipartisan support—it was first proposed and introduced by the Bush administration and is included on the priority list of treaties supported by the Obama administration. Visit AudubonAction.org to send a letter to Congress today and help protect America’s beautiful seabirds for our children’s future.
A Conservation Roadmap
To raise awareness about the plight of seabirds and the habitats they depend on, Audubon has released a new interactive map that allows users to explore some of the most important places for these birds along the Pacific Coast from Barrow to Baja. You can find it online at http://gis.audubon.org/pacificflyway_ibas.