WEBINAR Designation of marine protected areas for birds

Author: Željka Rajković

The last in the series of webinars for the expert community of the LIFE Artina project, a webinar about Designation of marine protected areas (MPAs), was held on 7th June 2023.

The IBA (Important Bird & Biodiversity Area) criteria for the designation of MPAs and how they are applied within the framework of the LIFE Artina project were presented at the webinar. Six sites are relevant for Yelkouan shearwater, all of which contain more than 1% of the global population of this globally threatened species. For Scopoli’s shearwater, four sites were identified which are of high significance for the Croatian population. Finally, for the globally threatened Audouin’s gull, one site is of global importance, namely the Lastovo Archipelago.

Methods on data collection and analysis, determining the core areas and delineating IBAs were presented. Five new sites were designated, and two existing ones were extended. Newly designated IBAs are: Northern Adriatic, Lastovo Channel, Korčula Channel, Hvar Channel and East Mljet Channel, while extended sites are Lastovo Archipelago and Offshore Islands.

Cartographic representation of new Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas designated in Croatia (Author: BIOM)

The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development committed to designate all IBAs as SPAs (Special Protection Areas) – Natura 2000 sites. This way the Natura 2000 network in Croatia will get its first sites for birds that are only marine, which seabirds use for feeding and roosting during their breeding seasons. After designation, the work on managing these sits begins. Threats for all three seabirds and planned conservation measures were presented. Long-term conservation of these threatened species will be secured through the development of conservation objectives and measures, and afterwards also management plans.

During the discussion, the Public Institution Nature Park Lastovo Islands commented on the sustainability of project results. They stated that, after rats are removed from an area, monitoring and maintaining biosecurity should not be a problem.

The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development presented the MPA designation process and stressed that management objectives and measures should be developed in parallel. Considering that most of the conservation measures will be directed towards fisheries, real conservation will be achieved only upon the agreement with the fisheries sector regarding the implementation of conservation measures. As far as the site in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is concerned, which has been designated as IBA in both Croatia and Italy, the Ministry noted that it would be ideal to designate these areas as Natura 2000 sites in cooperation with Italy and through the GFCM (General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean). During the discussion the “EU Action Plan: Protecting and restoring marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries” was mentioned, which caused big resistance from the fisheries sector due to the ban on using mobile bottom fishing in Natura 2000 sites, regardless of the conservation objectives.

During the discussion, the maritime sector was mentioned as well, and it was concluded that it would present a big challenge. Especially for determining the strict protection areas due to the maritime waterways. In addition, offshore wind farms present potential future threats and conservation measures will aim to prohibit the construction of offshore wind farms in SPAs.