By Charles Tjatindi
An action plan that would address increasing threats to Namibia’s coastal and marine birdlife was recently launched here. The Namibia Coastal/Marine Action Plan is a resolution by a just ended workshop.
Almost ten of Namibia’s bird species are recognised as being under threat. Of these, coastal and marine bird species represent 25 percent inland birds, 32 percent wetlands birds and 30 percent birds of prey. The main threats to all these birds include habitat loss or degradation, poisons, oil spillage and other forms of pollution. Over fishing, particularly of pilchards, by-caches, fishing operations and a lack of environmental awareness and local ownership of biodiversity resources also contribute to the situation.
According to a media statement, the Namibia Coastal Marine Bird working group, a partnership between the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF), the NACOMA Project and institutions with a conservation mandate such as the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and local municipalities is implementing the action plan.
Civil society groups, amongst them the Coastal Environmental Trust of Namibia, the Namibia Bird Club and the Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society are also represented in the working group. The new working group is associated with two related NNF initiatives, namely the Namibia Crane Working Group (for cranes and other inland and wetland birds), and Raptors Namibia (for birds of prey).
The coastline is an important bird area and hosts up to 770 birds per kilometer of rocky shore, the highest linear count of birds anywhere in southern Africa. The rare and specially protected endemic Damara Tern has its important breeding ground on the planet in this area. Most significant is the 12 600 hectare Walvis Bay wetlands to the south of Walvis Bay, which is listed as a Ramsar Convention Wetland in 1995 and has some of the world’s largest concentration of bird species.
According to Namibia’s Red Data Book, 33 percent of coastal and marine birds are listed as vulnerable, near threatened or endangered. The 20 coastal and marine bird species under threat include the albatross, cormorant, Flamingo, the African Black Oyster-catcher, Pelican and the Tern.
The Namibia Red Data book identifies four major groupings of birds under threat in Namibia. These include the Inland wetland birds, birds of prey, peripheral birds of northern river ecosystems and marine and coastal birds.
Bird species have experienced increasing pressure to survive as their natural habitats are destroyed or overtaken by human activities. Such threats include habitat destructions arising form activities such as mining, development and tourism. The Red Data Book also estimates that more than 300 000 seabirds are accidentally killed each year by fishing operations. Of these, approximately 100 000 are albatrosses.
The action plan aims to prioritise certain issues pertaining to its mandate, which include habitat loss due to human disturbances, lack of funding for conservation initiatives and issues surrounding sea bird by-catch by different fisheries and lack of implementation of mitigation measures.
It aims to accomplish these tasks by promoting communication and cooperation amongst stakeholders, promote conservation awareness and education. The action plan shall also attempt to update the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP), to prevent the loss of bird species to oil spillage, amongst others.