Marine IBA policy influence

The identification of priority sites for seabird conservation is a necessary first step towards promoting and implementing targeted conservation action. To achieve this and so help improve the status of threatened seabird species effective management and/or protection of these sites is required.

As more and more countries ratify key international environmental treaties, BirdLife Partners are becoming increasingly engaged in a range of policy initiatives and environmental conventions (such as CBD, Convention on Migratory Species, Ramsar and others) and are assisting with the development of priority species lists within these agreements.

BirdLife has been promoting the use of marine IBAs to inform a range of national, regional and global level policy processes to ensure these data are used to inform the identification, circumscription and management of Marine Protected Areas and to contribute to marine spatial planning initiatives generally.

At the global level BirdLife has undertaken much work via the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), particularly to show how marine IBAs can be used to describe Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Areas  (EBSAs) in need of protection. This has resulted in the inclusion of marine IBAs within a number of EBSAs described to date via a series of regional expert led workshops. EBSA workshop boundaries are shown within the e-atlas to allow visualisation of the data that BirdLife has submited to each.

EBSAs also recommend scientific guidance for selecting areas to establish a representative network of marine protected areas, including in open ocean waters and deep-sea habitats (CBD Decision IX/20, Annex II). These call for aspects of representivity and connectivity to be assessed so that a network of EBSAs consists of areas representing the different biogeographical subdivisions of the global oceans and regional seas that reasonably reflect the full range of ecosystems. To assist in these assessments we have included a range of ocean biogeographic classifcation systems to allow marine IBA visualisation within them. The classification systems include:

  • LMEs - Showing the Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) of the World, as defined by UNEP Regional Seas Report and Studies No.182.
  • Pelagic provinces - Showing the pelagic provinces of the Global Open Oceans and Deep Seabed (GOODS) biogeographic classification, as defined by Spalding, M., Agostini, V., Grant, S., and Rice, J., 2012, Pelagic provinces of the world: a biogeographic classification of the world’s surface pelagic waters: Ocean and Coastal Management, v. 90, p. 19-30.
  • MEOW - Showing the Marine Ecoregions of the World (MEOW), as defined by Spalding et al (2007) Marine Ecoregions of the World: A Bioregionalization of Coastal and Shelf Areas. BioScience Vol. 57, No. 7.
  • Longhurst - Showing the Longhurst Biogeographical Provinces, as defined by VLIZ (2009) and available online at Consulted on 2012-09-18.

BirdLife has also provided marine IBA data to a range of other agreements including the European Union’s Birds Directive, the Nairobi Convention, the ASEAN Agreement, and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP). There are, in addition, many other agreements for which marine IBA data are likely to be relevant, including a number of regional seas agreements, which BirdLife hope to engage with in the future.

Kittlitz's Murrelet. Unalaska, USA. © Ben Lascelles