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DPLUS139: Tracking seabirds and seals in the Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands, are a globally significant wildlife wonder spot. Home to 75% of the global population of Black-browed albatross, 50% of the global population of South American fur seals, 30% of the global population of Rockhopper and Gentoo penguins, to list but a few. This means that population trends of Falklands seals and seabirds disproportionately influence the global population trends and conservation status of these species. To protect seals and seabirds, it is essential to understand their spatial distribution at-sea, potential threats and relevant spatial scales of management. Yet surprisingly, we know very little about the at-sea usage of the largest populations of Rockhopper penguins, Magellanic penguins, Thin Billed Prions and South American fur seals to name but a few. Our project is a multi-species project, which includes Rockhopper, Magellanic and Gentoo penguins, Thin-billed prions, Black-browed albatross, Imperial shags and South American fur seals.

At the most basic level, our project will fill data gaps and quantify the at-sea distribution for globally significant breeding colonies of seabirds and seals in the Falkland Islands. We will use this data to then achieve two high-level project aims:

  1. To quantify exposure to anthropogenic threats across the entire foraging range of these species (that is over the entire Patagonian Shelf), by using freely available big ocean datasets, such as Global Fishing Watch.
  2. To quantify important at-sea areas for seals and seabirds, by combining tracking data with an ensemble modelling approach. This will, in-turn, help support and inform the proposed Falkland Islands Marine Managed Areas (MMAs), because it will allow us to quantify how these predators use the proposed MMAs, and highlight other management considerations.

This research forms part of the Darwin Initiative project DPLUS139, a project that was developed in partnership with FIG.