Using an integrated approach to design an effective marine protected area for seabirds

Lise Coquilleau

Seabirds face a unique set of threats, including prey depletion and bycatch mortality due to commercial fisheries, which need to be given special consideration when managing their populations. The European Birds Directive aims to protect all European wild birds and their habitats, through measures such as the creation of Special Protection Areas. Additionally, with the IUCN’s new target of 30% of marine habitats to be protected by 2030, the importance of well-planned marine protected areas (MPAs) as a conservation tool is recognized more than ever.

We attempted to use a spatial conservation planning tool, Zonation, to identify the key areas for seabirds in the Algarve (Portugal), mainly focusing on two species: the rare and vulnerable Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii) and the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus). We modelled the predicted distribution at sea of these two species and several other local seabirds, and mapped and incorporated fishing effort, to take into consideration the importance of small-scale fisheries in this region. The resulting MPA design and recommendations will go towards the official proposal, due at the end of 2021, and we hope that this may serve as a starting point for other researches not yet familiar with Zonation.