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The Velvet Scoter duck and humans: soft touch needed

Representatives from nine pan-European countries have gathered to seek better understanding of threats to species of a sea duck facing habitat loss and human disturbance, among other hazards, and ways they can be protected.


Conservation actions will be taken under the proposed International Single Species Action Plan for the Nordic population of the Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) under the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement.


Two distinct populations of the Velvet Scoter are recognized: one in Western Siberia and Northern and Northwestern Europe, which will be the subject of the species action plan, and a smaller one found around the Black and Caspian Seas.


Surveys conducted around the Baltic Sea in 2011 indicated a decline of 60 per cent compared to the 1990s – with an estimated population of 450,000-500,000 down from 1,000,000. Black Sea/Caspian Sea Velvet Scoters probably only number around 1,500. The main threats to the species include habitat loss in its breeding and wintering areas, bycatch in fishing gear, pollution and human disturbance.


A Planning Workshop was therefore held in Vilnius, Lithuania from 4-6 October to identify the objectives, expected results and actions to be taken under the International Single Species Action Plan.


The event was hosted by the Lithuanian Ministry of the Environment and organized by the Lithuanian Ornithological Society. Attendees included representatives of Denmark, Estonia, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, the Russian Federation and Sweden as well as observers from NGOs and invited experts.


The workshop heard reports on the status, distribution, threats and conservation measures from all the Range States present. Knowledge gaps on the species exist and the action plan must therefore include an extensive research and monitoring programme to increase understanding of the drivers of population decline, participants agreed. This is expected to allow for better conservation planning and action in future.


African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement is administered by UN Environment and is the largest regional instrument of its kind concluded under the Convention on Migratory Species. The Agreement provides a framework for international cooperation on the conservation and management of migratory waterbird populations across the African-Eurasian Flyway. It has set an example for flyway-based cooperation around the world.


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