Focal species and the designation and management of marine protected areas: sea- and coastal birds in Belgian marine waters
Seys, J.; Van Waeyenberge, J.; Meire, P.; Vincx, M.; Kuijken, E. (2001). Focal species and the designation and management of marine protected areas: sea- and coastal birds in Belgian marine waters, in: Seys, J. Het gebruik van zee- en kustvogelgegevens ter ondersteuning van het beleid en beheer van de Belgische kustwateren. pp. 40-67
In: Seys, J. (2001). Het gebruik van zee- en kustvogelgegevens ter ondersteuning van het beleid en beheer van de Belgische kustwateren. PhD Thesis. Universiteit Gent: Gent. 133 + LXIX appendices pp., more
The various groups of linear sand ridges off the continental coast of the southernmost part of the North Sea (the ‘Flemish Banks’) have an important seabird conservation value. During an intensive seabird surveying programme from 1992 till 1998 in the Belgian part of it, eleven species were counted in numbers amounting to 1-5% of the flyway population in an area of merely 3500 km². Six of them (Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Little Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern) are considered as of international conservation value and were selected as focal species. Hotspots are situated on the shallow Westkustbanken, in the neighbourhood of the Zeebrugge outer harbour and on the Vlaamse Banken. In addition, during the 1990s the Zeebrugge harbour accommodated a medium-sized colony of Sandwich Tern (1650 pairs) and some of the largest colonies of Common (2260 pairs) and Little Tern (430 pairs) of NW-Europe. The present conservation status of these areas is insufficient and marine protected areas (in the widest sense) are needed to safeguard the strongholds for Belgian seabirds. Oil-sensitivity maps indicate that the most vulnerable sites are too close to some of the busiest shipping routes of the world to consider any rerouting measure. Weighing the disturbance-sensitivity of different subareas shows that only on the hotspots for divers and scoters there is a need to restrict boating activity during winter. In addition this southernmost part of the North Sea is a very important corridor for seabird migration. An estimated 1-1.3 million seabirds, with one-third being focal species for conservation, may fly through this bottleneck each year. New developments such as wind parks that might have a detrimental impact on resident as well as migrating seabirds must be carefully investigated.