Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean

by Environmental Protection in the Caribbean
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Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Protect Baby Seabirds in the Caribbean
Sculpture of life cycle of Magnificent Frigatebird
Sculpture of life cycle of Magnificent Frigatebird

During this week's Little By Little matching campaign, donations up to $50 are matched at 50%. This is a great way to turn a litle into a lot! We hope you'll take this opportunity to donate before the campaign ends on Friday, March 12.

Speaking of transforming a little into a lot, we recently announced winners of our Waste to Art competition held under the theme “Amazing Seabirds: Our Birds, Our Islands, Our Future.” Participants from islands throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada turned trash into beautiful sculptures of seabirds in order to raise awareness about the plight of these birds and the threat that plastic and other litter poses for wildlife. Learn more.

The citizen scientists of the Grenadines Seabird Guardians have been busy conducting surveys as well, including using remote cameras and other devices to search for invasive predators like rats on uninhabited islands. The field work was successful, allowing us to update maps showing where non-native mammals are found, and they also managed to clean up a lot of litter, making the island safer for birds, sea turtles, and other wildlife that can get entangled in or eat plastics and other waste. It's good timing because the migratory gulls and terns have just returned to start their nesting season!

The Working Group that oversees the Grenadines Seabird Conservation Plan has met online to discuss the issues of invasive mammals and seabird harvesting. The group is made up of diverse stakeholders, including government, non-profits, and fisherfolk, who advise on the best strategies to address crucial conservation concerns while making sure different perspectives are included.

I am really proud of our teams, those working remotely and in the field, who continue to make progress in protecting these regionally and globally important nesting sites for seabirds despite the restrictions posed by the pandemic. I hope you will show your support for their perserverance by contributing what you can during this matching campaign. Thank you!

Photos: 1. Rowena Kind Desouza (artist) 2. Annique Patterson (artist) 3 & 4. Kate Charles. All use by permission.

Artwork showing threat of ingesting plastic
Artwork showing threat of ingesting plastic
A field lesson in using remote wildlife cameras
A field lesson in using remote wildlife cameras
A creative solution for removing litter!
A creative solution for removing litter!

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Removing a fish trap. Photo: Davon Baker
Removing a fish trap. Photo: Davon Baker

As storm clouds gathered on the horizon and the winds whipped up the seas of remote White Island in the Grenadines, volunteers hurried to pull a large fish trap from the sand. White Island was one of several islands our team and partners cleaned as part of the International Coastal Cleanup. This is also hurricane season and many seabirds do not nest during this time, which means we did not disturb them when visiting the islands they call home.  

Marine litter, especially plastic, is a threat to wildlife, including the seabirds and sea turtles that nest on these uninhabited islands. They can get tangled in litter or mistake it for food and get sick or die from eating it.  Sadly, ocean currents carry litter to the most remote places in the world, which are also often the last refuges from human development and disturbance for wildlife. 

Over 600 pounds of litter was collected during September and October, including more than 2,000 plastic bottles as well as hundreds of shoes and pieces of styrofoam! The litter was loaded onto a wooden fishing boat and disposed of at the waste facility on the main island.

Cleaning up litter is not enough, though. Our outreach programs and school curriculum include lessons on the importance of reducing plastic use and properly disposing of waste. Since this was the first time these islands have ever been cleaned, our hope is that there will be much less litter during future cleanups as citizens and companies around the world start acting responsibly to reduce marine litter.

Your contribution makes these important programs possible. Over the years, our team has trained dozens of members of the Grenadines Seabird Guardians, who serve as citizen-scientists, environmental advocates, and now litter fighters. On behalf of these volunteers, I'd like to express our sincere gratitude for your support and empowering individuals to take action in protecting these crucial nesting sites.

Weighing and recording litter. Photo: Keone Drew
Weighing and recording litter. Photo: Keone Drew

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Grenadine Citizen Scientists. Photo: J. Coffey
Grenadine Citizen Scientists. Photo: J. Coffey

Perhaps you’ve heard some of the encouraging environmental stories resulting from coronavirus restrictions, such as cleaner air and water, and wildlife reappearing in areas where human activity had overwhelmingly dominated. We held similar hopes for a resurgence of seabird colonies in the Grenadines since travel was limited between islands, including the uninhabited islands where seabirds nest in astonishing colonies of tens of thousands of birds. However, while travel restrictions eased at the beginning of the egg-laying period, we quickly began to receive reports of egg and chick harvesting from our local citizen scientists.

For a region that relies heavily on tourism, the complete halt of international flights and inter-island travel meant serious economic loss for many people already struggling financially.  Restrictions further prevented enforcement and monitoring presence at these remote islands that are already difficult and costly to access. It is understandable that reliance on seabirds as a food source could increase at such a time, especially when consequences would not be expected.

Thanks to our volunteer citizen scientists, funded by donors like you, we continue to collect vital information on this threat and are using this data to engage with enforcement agencies and policy makers to advocate for changes to ensure the long-term health of seabird populations and support for struggling citizens.

In spite of current restrictions, we are developing alternative strategies to raise awareness.  While our citizen scientists continue their crucial monitoring of seabird colonies and threats, we have released a Public Service Announcement shared on radio, TV and social media, and conducted virtual interviews.  We are currently preparing an environmental school curriculum to target the next generation for when schools resume activities, and actively engaging with local departments and agencies.   While reports of seabird harvesting have increased, so has our network of advocates for seabirds in the Grenadines.

During the July 15th Bonus Day, we raised $9,100! Those who contributed join the 240 donors who have so generously supported this important work over the years. Conservation usually requires long-term commitment, especially when it involves changing human behavior. We are seeing that change, slowly but surely, and increasing local awareness and concern for native wildlife. We hope you will continue on this journey with us and our vision for a safe and sustainable future.  We are so grateful for our community of support in this time of need.

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Team members installed signs on Wildlife Reserves.
Team members installed signs on Wildlife Reserves.

Spring is in the air and, despite the upheaval humanity is experiencing at this difficult time, birds are busy doing what they've always done this time of year - migrating, reuniting with mates, and building nests where they'll raise another generation of chicks.

Escape with us to the Grenadines Islands in this short film that shows the dramatic beautify of these remote and uninhabited islands and the seabirds who master all its elements.

Grenadines Seabirds: Uniting Land, Air, and Sea

Our staff has been busy over the last several months. We are thrilled to report that we partnered with the local Department of Forestry to design and install informational signs on Wildlife Reserves where thousands of birds nest. The signs let visitors know that the area is protected and activities like harvesting seabirds or their eggs and setting fires are illegal. 

After a year of consultations with over 100 stakeholders, we have also completed the first ever Community-based Grenadines Seabird Conservation Plan. I know some people may not be excited by plans but this one is really important for making sure the community supports the actions needed to protect the remaining seabird colonies. The next step will be the first meeting of the committee of local stakeholders who will guide the process and prioritize which actions to take first.

And of course our Grenadines Volunteer Patrol members will begin their surveys soon to monitor nesting seabirds. We look forward to sharing with you what they find. Climate change has had a big effect on seabirds making the nesting season less predictable and adding further importance to these surveys.

Your support makes this work possible. Today is the start of the Little by Little Matching Campaign, which means your donation of $50 or less will be matched at 50%. If you pledge to donate monthly (up to $200 for at least 4 months) they will match your donation at 100%. The matching is only for this week so please donate today!

Communities provide input on a conservation plan.
Communities provide input on a conservation plan.

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Discussing seabird conservation with fisherfolk.
Discussing seabird conservation with fisherfolk.

If you want to save seabirds from extinction, you need a plan! However, your plan is only as good as the community support it has. For this reason, our team has been meeting with fisherfolk communities, NGOs, and government agencies to get their feedback on the draft Community-based Conservation Management Plan for Grenadines Seabirds. 

During community meetings, fisherfolk proved to be highly knowledgeable about seabirds and shared the importance of seabirds for finding fish, navigating and interpreting weather patterns.  One fisherman simply stated “All seabirds are very important to us.”  For example, Magnificent Frigatebirds are useful for indicating changes in weather, while Royal Terns are useful for finding baitfish, and Red-billed Tropicbirds can lead the way to larger commercial species at sea, such as tuna. 

Participants were asked if they learned anything during the presentation and discussions.  All present were shocked to learn that some seabirds regularly dive more than 50 meters and that some can live to be up to seventy years old. Some were not aware that seabirds often mate for life.

There were also discussions about the gradual decline in seabirds due to a variety of local threats. Harvesting of seabirds, their chicks and eggs has been a primary topic, including the laws making this practice illegal. One participant indicated that in the past seabirds were traditionally served for Sunday dinners.  While illegal harvest of seabirds, their chicks and eggs still occurs, participants recognized that harvesting would eventually lead to population declines.

When asked about how we can recover seabird populations, general consensus was that protection needs to focus on their breeding islands, which in the Grenadines are threatened with development, invasive species and pollution arriving by sea.  Some participants called for a halt to harvesting activities, particularly of seabird eggs, and to clean up the plastic pollution arriving on the shores of remote seabird breeding islands.  In addition, they suggested the public be notified by radio and other means prior to each seabird season that taking of seabird eggs and chicks is prohibited. 

Feedback from participants is now being integrated into the final Conservation Plan. In 2020, a group of stakeholders will lead the implementation of the plan for on-the-ground conservation action to protect seabirds and their breeding grounds.

Your donation will make this and other crucial work possible in the New Year. We thank you for your support and wish you all the best for the holiday season!

Red-billed Tropicbird with chick
Red-billed Tropicbird with chick
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Organization Information

Environmental Protection in the Caribbean

Location: Green Cove Springs, FL - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @EPICislands
Project Leader:
Natalia Collier
Green Cove Springs, FL United States
$27,159 raised of $35,000 goal
 
218 donations
$7,841 to go
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