Report from the Symposium “Ecology and Conservation of Caribbean Seabirds” and the Round-table Discussion “Next Steps in Caribbean Seabird Conservation”

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Patricia Bradley
Jennifer Wheeler

Patricia Bradley moderated the symposium
and provided an overview of Caribbean seabird
conservation issues as the first presentation. She
mentioned that a new book, An Inventory of Breed-
ing Seabirds of the Caribbean, was submitted in
July 2007 (and subsequently accepted) for publication
by University Press of Florida. It is the result of
4 yr of effort to compile information on breeding
seabirds from partners across the region. The book’s
island reports and the associated regional spatial
database of colonies reveal that many colonies are
highly vulnerable, severely declining, or already
extirpated. Threats vary from site to site, but are
region-wide, including loss of habitat from development,
human disturbance, invasive species, lack of
legislation or its enforcement, all underpinned by a
limited capacity to monitor and manage. Shared
threats provide an opportunity for shared solutions,
and the Society for the Conservation and Study of
Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) provides a network to
support and connect those working for the conservation
of seabirds on their islands. In addition, there
are several conservation organizations that have
regional scale programs in the Caribbean and which
can provide tools and resources to help island efforts.

A menu of conservation measures, provided as
the final chapter in the new book An Atlas of Breed-
ing Seabirds of the Caribbean, was introduced and
reinforced the need for multi-faceted approaches to
address the myriad threats in the region.

Subsequent presentations explored the threats,
needs, and approaches to seabird conservation in the
region. Judy Pierce presented on the efforts to eradicate
rats from offshore cays in the U. S. Virgin Islands
(animal predation affects 11% of seabird colonies,
according to An Atlas of Breeding Seabirds of
the Caribbean); she emphasized the complexity of
such projects, the need for preparation, and the very
real possibility of re-invasion. Studies to understand
the populations and habitat preferences of
Audubon’s Shearwaters (Puffinus lherminieri) in the region
were the subject of Will Mackin’s presentation;
he described how a Geographic Information
System (GIS)-based approach provides reasonable
estimates for a population that is 100 times lower
than the historical population and still in decline.
Diana Esclasans also reported on GIS development
and the use of kites outfitted with cameras in surveying
colonies, in this case for seabirds on Venezuelan
oceanic islands. By compiling existing information,
acquiring additional field data, and making
findings widely available, she and her colleagues
hope to provide a solid foundation for informed
decision-making regarding use of island and marine
resources, while simultaneously providing opportunities
for conservation-related training and education.
Jeremy Madeiros reported on the progress of
the Cahow or Bermuda Petrel (Pterodroma cahow)
Recovery Programme–a seabird conservation success
story made possible by 50 yr of intense effort
and careful study, innovative nest site enhancements
and translocation techniques, and the sheer tenacity
of the species in persisting on small, rocky islands.
Finally, Claudia Lombard described how the viability
of the Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) on St.
Croix is also dependent on intense management to
increase breeding productivity; moreover, immigration
is a critical factor, thus necessitating an integrated,
multi-scale conservation strategy for the
region’s colonies.

The symposium concluded with an invitation for
the audience to engage in the subsequent Round-
Table Discussion, during which regional scale institutions
and programs relevant to seabird conservation
would be explored. The objectives of the discussion
were also to examine potential collaborative
projects; therefore, the symposium included at the
very end, a quick photo-essay of Pedro Bank in Jamaica
by D. Brandon Hay, which, along with Venezuela
and two other areas, is proposed as a focal
area for SCSCB’s Seabird Working Group.

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