“Success is no accident. It is hard work, preserverence, learning and studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing.”
Here you can see our activities, how our work is progressing, what we have achieved so far, and what still awaits us!
*Note: All documents can be downloaded from the Downloads page!
A.1. Field research to gather initial data on seabird colonies, assess their size, and measure nesting success in the project area
A.2. Research to assess and quantify relevant threats to seabirds at sea
Fishing impacts on seabirds indirectly through competition for prey/catch and directly through incidental bycatch on fishing gear. Incidental bycatch in longline fishing is the most critical global threat to many seabird species, especially long-lived pelagic species like shearwaters. Due to the lack of published information, the extent of seabird bycatch in the Croatian part of the Adriatic is currently unknown. For this research, the fishing fleet and gear with potential impact on seabirds were analyzed in the POP Lastovo Archipelago and POP Pelagic Islands ecological network areas, as well as surrounding fishing areas. Longlines and static nets were identified as gear with the highest potential for accidental seabird bycatch. (Technical report in Croatian)
A.3. Field research conducted to assess and quantify all relevant threats to nesting colonies
A.4. Creation of a comprehensive GIS database for seabird colonies
A.5. Feasibility study for the eradication of invasive mammals on seabird colonies on Sušac Island within the Nature Park Lastovsko otočje
The report ‘Report recommending rat eradication/control techniques on Sušac’ lays out the data collection steps required to develop an informed feasibility study for complete rat eradication on Sušac island. The report also aims to identify any feasible methods to control rats around the shearwater colonies on islands in the Lastovo Archipelago with specific suggestions per island or island group. Suggestions are based on site visits carried out by the authors accompanied by BIOM staff during May 2019. (Summary of the report in English)
A feasibility study for a ground-based eradication of Rattus rattus (using rodenticide placed in closed bait stations) from the island of Sušac was carried out. (Report in English)
Eradicating rats from Sušac in a ground-based project is feasible but presents a number of logistical difficulties. These include the need for extensive climbing work to reach all vegetated areas of the island’s cliffs, the effort required to cut approx. 74 km of trails in order to lay out a grid of rodenticide bait stations and logistical issues around supporting a team of c. 20 people for around seven months on an island currently without suitable accommodation or fresh water. These are laid out in detail in the report.
In order to complement the above feasibility study on a ground-based approach, a short report following a field visit to assess the possibility of reaching the various cliff ledges was written up (Report in English).
In a separate study, the feasibility of an aerial approach (rodenticide bait dropped from a helicopter) was also explored. (Report in English)
In summary, both ground-based and aerial approaches are costed within LIFE funding which would ensure capacity for the project, but an aerial approach is less expensive and complex. Rat eradication of Sušac would greatly benefit the island ecosystem and especially its shearwater populations. Due to the large distance of the island to other islands is highly likely that the island can be maintained rat-free sustainably.
C.1. Reduce the Impact of Fishing Activities on Seabirds through Identification and Promotion of Good Practice Examples
Reducing the impact of fishing activities on seabirds – The sporadic bycatch of seabirds and limited field knowledge on technical specifications and effectiveness of alternative fishing gear have been identified. Due to this reason, within the project framework, it was decided to test gear replacement with a small group of fishermen to evaluate the feasibility of applying these solutions in Croatia, considering the specificities of vessels, gear, and fishing methods. In 2022, testing of adapted fishing gear was conducted with fishermen, including: signal (LED) lights for stationary nets, additional weights for gillnets, and devices for underwater hook release on floating longlines (hookpods). The measure that was best evaluated and accepted by the fishermen is the use of weights on gillnets, as weights are the quickest, simplest, and easiest to use. No seabird bycatch occurred during gear testing. ( Report in Croatian, Report in English)
For these measures to be effective and ensure fishermen’s compliance, they should be simple, appropriate for each fishing type, cost-effective, practical, safe, and accompanied by economic or social incentives. Additionally, raising awareness among fishermen and other key stakeholders about seabird bycatch and their role in it is crucial. These activities have led to recommendations for reducing seabird bycatch (Recommendations in Croatian, Recommendations in English) as well as a policy brief on measures to reduce the impact of fishing activities on sensitive species of seabirds in Croatia (Policy brief in Croatian, policy brief in English).
C.2. Implement Effective Predator Management and/or Biosafety Measures at All Targeted Locations with Seabird Colonies Requiring Feasible Management
The eradication and control of rats are still ongoing. Since 2019, rats have been successfully removed from the islands of Smokvica, Srednji Vlašnik, and Gornji Vlašnik (important sites for Audouin’s Gull), as well as Gornji and Srednji Lukovac (important sites for Yellow-legged Gull). Furthermore, rat populations are also being managed on Veli and Mali Maslovnjak, Veli and Mali Rutvenjak, and Zaklopatica (all important sites for both shearwater species). Rat eradication was attempted on the island of Pod Kopište as well, but without success. (Protokol for erradication in English)
C.3. Improvement of Breeding Habitat for Audouin’s Gull
In 2019, on the island of Smokvica, eggs of Yellow-legged Gull from 151 nests were punctured. However, the reproductive success of 23 pairs of Audouin’s Gull on the island was 0%, and predation of Yellow-legged Gull on Audouin’s Gull was observed. During 2020, Yellow-legged Gull eggs were punctured again on the island of Smokvica (total of 225 nests), as well as on the neighboring islands of Srednji Vlašnik (155 nests) and Gornji Vlašnik (148 nests). Nonetheless, no Audouin’s Gulls nested on the island. Therefore, it was decided to discontinue the egg puncturing measure starting from 2021. (Report in English)
C.4. Distribution of Seabirds at Sea and Spatiotemporal Overlap with Fisheries
Over a period of 2 years, every month between March and October, a total of 12 marine transects were conducted within a 9 nautical mile radius around the Lastovo Islands Nature Park. A total of 192 marine transects were completed, with each observed bird recorded and its corresponding location marked using GPS. The obtained data on marine distribution will be used to supplement the seabird monitoring data used for designating new marine SPAs (Special Protection Areas) in Croatia.
During the visit to Malta in 2019, GPS devices were attached to Scopoli’s Shearwaters from the largest colony on the island for testing purposes. The testing revealed that these devices were not suitable for tagging during the incubation period, as the battery quickly drained without frequent recharging through the built-in solar panel. However, data was successfully collected during the chick-rearing phase when adult birds left for the sea during the day. Three tagged Scopoli’s Shearwaters from Malta journeyed as far as the Gulf of Gabes in Tunisia and the southern regions of Italy.
Between 2019 and 2021, a total of 43 adult Scopoli’s Shearwaters and 41 Yelkouan Shearwaters were tracked during the chick-rearing period using GPS UHF devices. Furthermore, 25 Mediterranean Gulls and 20 Audouin’s Gulls were tracked using GPS GSM devices. These data, along with those obtained through marine transects, will be utilized to determine new marine SPAs (SPA areas) in Croatia. (Report in English)
Additional analysis was conducted to determine the spatial distribution of seabirds in areas with an increased risk of accidental capture in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea. It is not intended as a conclusive or comprehensive risk assessment for seabird bycatch, but rather as an exploratory analysis to inform decision makers on possible priorities in bycatch mitigation, and as a template for further analysis by conservation practitioners. (Report in English)
C.5. Designation of new marine SPAs (Special Protection Areas) in Croatia
In order to designate marine areas of special protection for birds (IBAs) in Croatia, systematic research was conducted through activities A1, C1, and C4 to collect data on the distribution of seabirds at sea and along the coast, as well as the distribution of their colonies. These data were statistically analyzed to define marine IBA areas, which were then entered into the BirdLife World Bird Database (WBDB). (IBA list)
C.6. Mitigating the impact of spatial users on seabird colony areas through influencing their behavior
MONITORING AND EVALUATION OF PROJECT ACTIVITIES’ IMPACT
D.1. Monitoring the Effect of Conservation Activities on Threats Directly Affecting Target Marine Bird Populations
D.2. Public Attitudes Research at the Beginning and End of the Project to Measure Impact
To assess changes in perception and attitudes of the local population, an survey was conducted to gauge their awareness of the impacts and threats facing marine birds, gather impressions related to the implementation of project activities, determine any differences in attitudes between respondents who participated in project activities and those who did not, identify reasons for non-participation, and explore willingness to support future environmental protection projects. The research involved 103 respondents. (Baseline study report in Croatian, Final report in Croatian)
D.3. Monitoring Impact on Ecosystem Functions
Research on the composition and abundance of plant species was conducted on ten islands to monitor the impact on ecosystem functions. Plant surveys and vegetation images were collected to gather baseline data prior to rat eradication. This research will be repeated after the eradication for comparison purposes. Each visited island exhibited unique flora and vegetation characteristics, mostly covered with forests or shrublands, while the more remote islands (Vrhovnjaci) were characterized by grasslands. (Summary of the Baseline Report, Final report in Croatian)
Monitoring the composition and population of lizard species was carried out on ten islands to track the impact on ecosystem functions. This research aimed to establish baseline data before rat eradication and will be repeated post-eradication. Four islands without recorded rat presence were used as control sites. The methodology involved walking along imaginary transect lines, during which researchers counted lizards and measured their distance from the transect line to determine population numbers (Summary of the Baseline Study, Final report in Croatian).
D.4. Monitoring the socio-economic impact of project activities
AISING AWARENESS AND DISSEMINATING RESULTS
E.1. Advocating for the designation of marine SPAs in Croatia
E.2. Development and implementation of the project’s communication plan
E.3. LIFE Artina communication and awareness-strengthening events
E.4. Networking with Other LIFE Projects
A meeting of the Marine Task Force BirdLife International was held. (Program)
E.5. Dissemination of Project Results
F.1. Project Management
F.2. Monitoring and Measurement of Project Indicators
F.3. Development of After-LIFE Plan