Seabirds roam far and wide in the Indian Ocean and consequently need ocean-wide protection, new research shows.
The research reveals that seabirds in the Indian Ocean roam extensively without the concentrated “hotspots” found in other oceans where predators feed.
The paper, published in the journal Current Biology, is entitled, “Tracking seabird migration in the tropical Indian Ocean reveals basin-scale conservation need.”
Conducted by Exeter, Heriot-Watt, Réunion universities, and ZSL, the study emphasises the need for ocean-wide protection for these birds facing multiple threats from human activities.
“Efforts are being made to protect key breeding colonies, but until now little was known about where Indian Ocean seabirds go when they’re not breeding,” said Dr. Alice Trevail, from the Environment and Sustainability Institute at Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
“We found that seabirds are extremely mobile outside of breeding times, with no focused hotspots.
“Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) exist in the Indian Ocean, but the birds in our study spent an average of no more than four days in any of the five largest MPAs per year.”
Tracking data on nine seabird species during non-breeding periods informed the study, highlighting the importance of safeguarding the open ocean to ensure the survival of these avian species.
“These birds mostly prey on small fish, so they are affected by human activities including overfishing and pollution,” Dr. Trevail said.
“As the birds roam widely and spend much of their time outside national waters, we need international action—like the recent High Seas Treaty—to protect them.
“No country can act in isolation to protect these birds.”
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