WEBINAR on taking care of our seabird colonies held for the expert community

Author: Ž. Rajković

On 7th March 2023 we held the first of the series of webinars of the LIFE Artina project with a goal to encourage the nature conservation community to implement seabird conservation measures themselves in the future. A webinar is one of the tools of the Transfer and Replicability Strategy by which the EU LIFE Program ensures that the knowledge and experience gained through the implementation of the project are applied in other geographic areas and for other species and habitats.

The lecture on taking care of our seabird colonies included biology and ecology of seabirds, their distribution in Croatia and the threats they face. Activities that were implemented on the colonies in the Nature Park Lastovo Islands were presented – monitoring of birds, eradication of rats, biosecurity, and control of the Yellow-Legged Gull population. Results of the four years of work were presented and these can primarily be seen via the number of birds and their breeding success, as well as via the reduction of the rat population on the islets.

We were successful in removing rats from certain islands and we improved the breeding success of both shearwater species, in particular that for the globally threatened Yelkouan Shearwater. On the other hand, the measure to control the population of the Yellow-Legged Gull did not have any positive impact on the breeding success of the rarer species on the Adriatic coast – Audouin’s Gull.

Technical details on the methods used to control rats, and the issue of feral cats were discussed, as well as beech marten that recently appeared on the island where the biggest known number of Yelkouan Shearwaters breed. The applicability of the methods to control the very invasive species – small Indian mongoose – was talked about, a species that has been present on the island of Mljet and its surrounding islets. How much Yellow-Legged Gulls and how much rats impact Audouin’s Gull was also the subject of the discussion. Ecological conditions for the breeding of Audouin’s Gull, namely on which sort of islands they breed, was also mentioned.

Another important aspect was the sustainability of the project and the representatives of the Public Institution Nature Park Lastovo Islands stated which activities the Park will continue to implement after the end of the project. Sustainability is one of the biggest challenges in such projects, but the institutional structure of the nature conservation in Croatia represents a good baseline for the conservation measures to be implemented after the end of projects like this one, namely they are to be included in the management plans of the protected areas management authorities.

Regarding the potential for replication of the LIFE Artina project, there is a need for the invasive species of mammals, such as rats and small Indian mongoose, to be removed from other islands and islets where seabirds breed. Also, it is necessary to determine the baseline and set up the monitoring of relevant colonies of European Shag and two species of terns, which are also present in the Adriatic. Furthermore, it is necessary to implement biosecurity measures on the island where the control of invasive species is successfully implemented, in order to ensure that invasive species do not return, which would again threaten not only the seabirds, but also the whole ecosystem of the small islands. 

After this first webinar, another four webinars will be held, namely on the subject of marine litter, seabird bycatch, project educational activities, and designation of marine protected areas.