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Ban on collection of sooty tern eggs in Seychelles extended for 2 more years 

Victoria, Seychelles | May 20, 2024, Monday @ 17:35 in Environment » GENERAL | By: Alisa Uzice Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 3819
Ban on collection of sooty tern eggs in Seychelles extended for 2 more years 

The two-year extension on the ban on sooty tern egg collection was recently approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. (Islands Development Company)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - The ban on the collection of sooty tern eggs in Seychelles has been extended for another two years, said an official from the Biodiversity Conservation and Management Division on Monday.

The previous ban was in place since 2022 and was expected to be removed by May 31 2024 to allow for surveys and research on the status of the species, especially the population numbers.

The director general for the Biodiversity Conservation and Management Division, Rodney Quatre, told reporters that after these surveys of 2022 as well as 2023, the results show a decline in the population of the sooty tern.

The population was around 1.2 million pairs in 2021 and was around 900,000 in 2023.

"Since it takes sooty tern around five years to mature, the two risk surveys that were done recently are still showing a decline therefore, we found it necessary as a precautionary measure to extend the ban for another two years. This would give more time for the population to recover as well as the possibility to do more research," said Quatre. 

He emphasised that monitoring and enforcement will continue during the ban.

The sooty tern is a medium-sized, highly pelagic seabird with contrasting black and white plumage and a distinctive wideawake call. They are extremely sociable, forming very large nesting colonies on open ground.

Sooty terns are found on several inner and outer islands of the Seychelles with the main populations on Recif, Aride, Farquhar, Cosmoledo, Bird Island, Desnouefs, African Banks and Etoile. Most of the islands are managed by the state-owned Islands Development Company (IDC). Two of them are privately owned, namely Bird and Aride Islands.

The director for conservation, Ashley Dias, presented the findings of the National Census 2022/2023 done for the sooty tern population and showed that on most islands there have been substantial declines.   

"Among the places where the census was done, the African Banks is one of the areas that have been severely affected by poaching. African Banks went from 43,300 pairs in 1955 to a 100 percent decline during the latest survey," she said.

Aride is another island that has seen a decline by 95 percent and on Cosmoledo's Grande Ile a census in 199 estimated around 1.1 million pairs and this has dropped to 262,195 in 2021, a decline of 75 percent.

According to information presented by Dias, the major threats to sooty terns are overfishing of tuna and invasive alien species, and secondary threats include climate change-induced habitat alteration.

"The sooty terns' ability for waterproofing its wings is not like the other birds, therefore they are not able to dive very deep for fish, so they depend on tuna driving other smaller fish to the surface for them. Consequently, the more overfishing there is, the harder it is for them to find food," she explained.

Dias said, "We have to look at all factors in its entirety that are affecting this species not just egg collecting, and this extension of the ban will allow to look at what exactly is causing the decline in the population."

The two-year extension on the ban on sooty tern egg collection was recently approved by the Cabinet of Ministers after they were presented with the findings from the National Sooty Tern Census.

The cabinet also approved the revision of all relevant seabird protection legislation and improved site management on breeding islands. Additionally, an educational campaign on the importance of preserving sooty terns, the development of a national action plan involving all stakeholders, increased surveillance and enforcement during nesting seasons, and research on breeding phenology and migration patterns were also approved. 

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Tags: sooty tern, Islands Development Company, National Sooty Tern Census

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