Winter conditions in Bulgaria © N . Petkov
Bonn, 18 January 2017 - The sudden onset of winter in parts of Europe, particularly in the south-east of the continent, with extreme low temperatures and heavy snow storms has been affecting waterbird populations. In light of these harsh conditions, the AEWA Secretariat has contacted Contracting Parties that have been affected or potentially affected by the cold spell and encouraged them to evaluate the situation in their countries and consider enacting emergency measures, such as the temporary suspension of waterbird hunting.
Field teams carrying out the 51st edition of the International Waterbird Census from 14 to 15 January across Europe reported on the impact of the cold spell. While conditions hampered the attempts of the counters to conduct the mid-winter census, the extreme weather has posed a considerable threat to waterbird populations.
According to the reports from the field, many birds are in a poor state, suffering or dying. For such circumstances of unfavourable or endangering conditions, paragraph 2.3 of the AEWA Action Plan requires Contracting Parties to implement emergency measures for populations listed under the Agreement.
The AEWA Conservation Guidelines No. 2 provide information on identifying and tackling emergency situations for migratory waterbirds. They recommend a temporary hunting ban to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, have well-established schemes in place to reduce disturbance and mortality to waterbirds during severe winter conditions. Countries without such a system are requested to assess the current situation and consider introducing a temporary ban on hunting until such time as the weather and the state of the birds improve.
In extreme winter conditions, waterbirds concentrate in large numbers at wetlands with still, open water and they suffer from food shortages, and research has shown that waterbird populations are particularly vulnerable to such conditions. Restricting hunting is important not only in the areas directly affected by the severe weather conditions but also in those that act as cold weather refuges. In this respect, North African countries are also being urged to monitor the situation and consider temporary suspension of hunting as they may receive an influx of some species seeking refuge from the harsh winter in Europe.
All countries, including non-Party Range States, are encouraged to continue monitoring the situation and take appropriate measures to mitigate the impact of the current extreme winter conditions on the populations of migratory waterbirds as well as to keep the AEWA Secretariat regularly informed.
Last updated on 19 January 2017