EPIC searching for Seabirds in St Lucia
Have you ever seen Brown Pelican chicks or any other seabirds? Call EPIC!
You have probably heard of the rare St Lucia Amazon Parrot, but have you heard of the critically endangered Black-capped Petrel or Audubon’s Shearwater? Environmental Protection In the Caribbean (EPIC) would like to hear from you if you know the whereabouts of either of these birds or other breeding seabirds. EPIC is an environmental charity, with Katharine and David Lowrie, assisted by Megan Friesen undertaking seabird surveys that will form the Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles.
Since February 2009 the EPIC team have been sailing south from Saint Maarten and were moored in St Lucia where they intend to search for winter breeding seabirds along the coastline and offshore islands. Once the research is completed on St Lucia, they will continue sailing to St Vincent, the Grenadines and Grenada, assimilating seabird data as they go. EPIC will then return to St Lucia next year for follow up surveys of seabirds that nest during the summer months, such as the Terns and Noddies.
But why are seabirds important, you may ask? Katharine Lowrie (Field Manager) explains, “Over 70 percent of the seabirds breeding within the Lesser Antilles are threatened and declining. Thousands of years ago there would have been over 10 times more seabirds flapping through the Caribbean sky than today. When man arrived on the islands, however, he ate seabirds and introduced predators such as rats. Then came mongooses, monkeys, cats and dogs, which also prey on seabird eggs and chicks. Seabirds are not adapted to deal with such threats and are easy targets as they generally nest on the ground.
“More recently destruction of nesting habitat due to housing development, hotels and drainage of wetlands, etc, has placed greater pressure on seabirds. There are now very few places for seabirds to nest where they will not be disturbed by people, power boats, jet skis, the list reels on. Seabirds are exotic icons of the Lesser Antilles. They are interwoven into their precious natural history and the beguiling images of azure sea, luscious vegetation and sandy beaches. It would be incredibly sad if future generations of St Lucian children could not look up into the sky and view the splendor of a Red-billed Tropic Bird or Magnificent Frigate Bird. In the case of the Jamaican Petrel this may have already happened, as it is believed extinct.
“Seabirds are also indicators of the health of our ocean, as they feed on a huge range of marine organisms. If over-fishing, pollution, climate change or other hazards deplete their
food sources, they will decline, sending a stark warning that something is amiss at sea.”
There is very little data on the location and number of breeding seabirds within the Lesser Antilles. EPIC intends to change this through advice from the government, local people, interest groups and through their own field work. The results will be available to all through interactive online maps and data at the West Indian Seabird GIS.
They will also be incorporated into the Caribbean Waterbirds Conservation Plan, compiled by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds. A hard back copy of the Atlas will also be given to each of the countries participating in the work. EPIC also hope to speak to local radio and TV programmes about the
work and present to schools and interest groups. If you are interested in hearing from them, or have information on breeding seabirds please contact Katharine Lowrie at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.epicislands.org.