Puffinus mauretanicus 

Scope: Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Procellariiformes Procellariidae

Scientific Name: Puffinus mauretanicus
Species Authority: Lowe, 1921
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Balearic Shearwater
Spanish Pardela balear
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Taxonomic Notes: Puffinus yelkouan (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into P. yelkouan and P. mauretanicus following Brooke (2004).

Identification information: 33 cm. Medium-sized, rather dark shearwater. Upperparts dark brown contrasting slightly with the dirty, variably marked brown-whitish underparts. Most individuals show dusky undertail coverts and armpits. Similar spp. Easily told from Manx Shearwater P. puffinus by lack of strong contrast between upperparts and underparts. Dark individuals could be mistaken for Sooty Shearwater P. griseus but always show a white belly patch and lack the scythe-like wings and heavier flight of that species.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A4bcde (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-03-31
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ashpole, J, Burfield, I., Ieronymidou, C., Pople, R., Wheatley, H. & Wright, L
European regional assessment: Critically Endangered (CR)
EU27 regional assessment: Critically Endangered (CR)

This species, endemic to Europe and the EU27 as a breeder, has a tiny breeding range and a small population which is undergoing an extremely rapid population decline owing to a number of threats, in particular predation at breeding colonies by introduced mammals and at-sea mortality as a result of fisheries by-catch. Population models predict an extremely rapid decline over three generations (54 years), qualifying the species as Critically Endangered (A4bcde). However, this assumption was based on the existence of a population of c.2,000 breeding pairs, which could have been underestimated according to recent population estimates and records at sea, plus a recent re-evaluation of some colonies (i.e. increased accuracy in the estimates). Updated population viability analysis to re-evaluate the species's status is planned, incorporating recent population estimates and improved demographic data. Should this analysis reveal that the species is declining at a more moderate rate, this species will warrant downlisting.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The species occurs in the western and central Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic Ocean. It breeds in the Balearic Islands, Spain (del Hoyo et al. 2014), with colonies present on Mallorca, Cabrera, Ibiza and Formentera (Arcos 2011).
Countries occurrence:
France; Gibraltar; Ireland; Portugal; Spain; United Kingdom
Belgium; Denmark; Germany; Italy; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Sweden
Present - origin uncertain:
Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; Faroe Islands; Greece; Malta; Montenegro; Slovenia
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:9Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:22728432-1

Population [top]

Population:The European population is estimated at 3,200 pairs, which equates to 6,400 mature individuals. The entire population is found in the EU27. For details of national estimates, see the Supplementary Material.

Trend Justification:  Using the previous population estimate of 2,000-2,400 breeding pairs, Oro et al. (2004) estimate a mean decline of 7.4% per year and a mean extinction time, as estimated by population viability analysis, of just over 40 years. This equates to an ongoing population decline of more than 80% in three generations (54 years). However, an updated population viability analysis is necessary to re-evaluate the population trend, taking into account the new population estimate and improved demographic data (particularly adult survivability estimates). While the new information on population size could smooth the decreasing trend, adult survival could be even lower than assumed by Oro et al. (2004), given that their analysis did not take into account colonies subject to predation (Arcos 2011a). For details of national estimates, see attached PDF.
For further information about this species, see 22728432_puffinus_mauretanicus.pdf.
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Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:6400-6400,6400Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:1Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:Yes
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:100

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is marine, usually found around inshore waters (del Hoyo et al. 2014). It breeds on cliffs and small islets and lays only one egg. Adult birds do not breed until their third year (Oro et al. 2004). Breeding occurs between February and June (Ruiz & Martí 2004). The species nests in colonies, in rock crevices or on cave ledges lined sparsely with plant material. It feeds mostly on small shoaling fish, squid and crustaceans (del Hoyo et al. 2014). After breeding, most birds leave the Mediterranean for the Atlantic coast of south-west Europe, mainly Portugal, north-west Spain and the Bay of Biscay (Ruiz and Martí 2004, Ramírez et al. 2008, Arcos et al. 2009).
Systems:Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):18.5
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This is a long-lived species and therefore immediate threats affect adult mortality rates. Adult survival is the main conservation concern, as this is unusually low for a Procellariiform (Oro et al. 2004). In accordance, the main threats identified are predation by introduced carnivores such as cats, martens and genets in the breeding colonies (Arcos and Oro 2004, Ruiz and Martí 2004, Jones et al. 2008, Arcos 2011) and fisheries by-catch at sea (Arcos 2011). The species's gregarious behaviour and its close association with fishing boats means that occasional mass mortality is likely to occur when long-line boats fish close to flocks (Arcos et al. 2008) and it appears that bycatch is fairly common but often occurs on an irregular basis, suggesting that estimates derived from observations on a limited number of trips onboard fishing vessels could be largely underestimates (Boue et al. 2013). Increasing evidence on this has been compiled in the last few years, with events of up to a hundred or more birds caught in a single event, in occasions involving other fishing gear such as purse-seiners (ICES 2008, Louzao et al. 2011). Due to the congregatory behaviour of the species, acute pollution events such as oil spills also pose a very serious threat as a large number of casualties could result from a spill occurring in a congregation area (Ruiz and Martí 2004, Gutiérrez 2011). Other threats include: the reduction of prey due to fishing overexploitation; a potential reduction in fishing discards (an alternative to the overexploited natural prey) and/or anthropogenic environmental change (Arcos 2011); habitat degradation and disturbance in the breeding grounds; background pollution (Oro et al. 2008); the development of marine windfarms (Arcos 2011a); and human harvesting (nowadays a relict activity). Predation by Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) in the breeding colonies has also been recently reported (García 2009, Wynn et al. 2010), though this should be considered as a factor of natural mortality that likely has little influence on the decline of the species. The gradual northward movement of the non-breeding population may be affecting adult survival, and this shift may be due to climate change or alterations in fish distributions as a result of fisheries' activities (Yésou 2003, Wynn and Yésou 2007). The recent demographic decline has not yet decreased the species's genetic variability and connectivity found among colonies at least does not exacerbate the species's extinction risk (Genovart et al. 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix I. All breeding sites are currently protected as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Natura 2000 network, with the unique exception of the colony of Punta Prima in Formentera where new information has revealed that the prevailing colony (50 pp.) lays right outside the SPA (and the overlapping Important Bird Area, IBA) designated for this species. The management plans for the Balearic SPAs have not been yet implemented. Management plans are therefore limited to colonies covered by other designations, such as the National Park of Cabrera and the Natural Park of Sa Dragonera. Rat eradication campaigns have been conducted at several colonies, including Cabrera archipelago and Dragonera Island, but less effort has been directed at the colonies of greatest concern where carnivores are present (e.g. Formentera and Menorca). At sea, the Spanish Government has started the process of SPA designation based on the inventory of marine IBAs conducted by SEO/BirdLife, which, once concluded, will provide protection to the main hotspots for the species in Spanish waters. So far only a few small coastal sites have been designated as SPAs by the regional governments in Spain. Portugal already has an inventory of marine IBAs, but their designation as SPAs is still pending. Finally, France has also proposed a network of SPAs that include hotspots for the species. Management plans for all the marine SPAs are still pending. Action Plans for the species have been published at local, national or international level in 1991, 1999, 2004, and 2005 (Jones et al. 2008). A LIFE project for the species ran from 1991-2001 (Ruiz and Martí 2004), and Spain and Portugal had a joint LIFE project running from 2004-2008 aimed at identifying marine IBAs, including for this species (Ramírez et al. 2008, Arcos et al. 2009). A number of actions are currently being implemented through Species Guardians SEO/BirdLife and SPEA as part of BirdLife's Preventing Extinctions programme. Moreover, research on the species is also being conducted by BirdLife partners in collaboration with several research centres, with funding from EC projects LIFE+ INDEMARES (Spain) and Interreg FAME (Portugal, Spain, France, UK and Ireland). The main initiatives include the assessment of bycatch through questionnaires to fishermen, observers onboard fishing vessels and conducting beached bird surveys, and the identification of hotspots at sea through boat surveys, coastal counts and tracking studies (breeding and non-breeding grounds).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Control and eradicate introduced predators (with particular emphasis on carnivores) in breeding colonies identified as at risk. Thoroughly study the problem of bycatch by long-line fishing and develop awareness campaigns directed at the fishing sector, in order to mitigate this threat, plus assess and implement the appropriate mitigation measures. Ensure effective protection for nesting sites and marine hotspots, and the implementation of monitoring schemes and management plans. Develop a rapid response plan for a potential oil spill close to main feeding and breeding areas. Raise awareness and stop human exploitation. Study small pelagic fish populations in the western Mediterranean and in the Bay of Biscay to assess extent of over-exploitation and how this affects the species. Assess the impact of pollutants and heavy metals on this species. Improve understanding of at-sea distribution, including during the non-breeding season.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2015. Puffinus mauretanicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22728432A60301485. . Downloaded on 25 June 2017.
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