Petition for the protection of azorean birds (2011)


Considering the intention of the Regional Government of the Azores to include native azorean species in the List of Cynegetic Species, in the new Regional Law – Regulatory Law for the Protection of Biodiversity, which is now being discussed in the Azorean Regional Parliament, the signers of this petition want to point out the following:

1. The lack of scientific studies on the biology of these species and their habitats. There is a profound lack of knowledge on the genetic characterization of some of these species, raising many problems in the conservation of their biodiversity. Also, the habitats occupied by all these species are very restricted and highly sensitive, which means that any change in these habitats may also have strong implications in their conservation. There is also a lack of studies on the importance of the Azores in the migration of certain birds.

2. The absence of a conservation status attributed to the species included in this list. None of the species included in the list has been attributed a conservation status in the Azores biogeographic region, due to the inexistence of the scientific studies which are necessary for that effect. However, considering the international criteria which are used, it seems likely that some of these species will be qualified as threatened species (and therefore will be qualified as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable species).

3. The lack of studies on the impact of hunting on these species and their habitats. Hunting the species included in the list may have an extremely negative impact, considering that the size of their populations is extremely small and some of them occupy habitats, namely for feeding, which are extremely scarce and localized. The hunting activity should also cause a negative impact on all the other species occupying that habitat, whether they are included in the list of cynegetic species or not. And in the case of humid regions, hunting may cause the contamination of water resources with lead, which may provoke a disease known as saturnism.

4. This list is impossible to apply, due to the extreme difficulty to identify the species correctly. Some of the species included in this list are almost indistinguishable from other species which are not included and which are regularly present in the Azores. This happens namely with several species of European ducks versus their American counterparts, and even more concerning European and American snipes.

5. The problem of introducing exotic species. The inclusion of two species of exotic birds in the list means they will be introduced in the natural environment. This kind of introduction has been carried out in the past and seems to ignore the risks associated with exotic species in a particularly fragile ecosystem such as the one existing in the Azorean islands. Exotic species and varieties may cause, such as in the case of the quail, serious hybridization problems and decrease genetic diversity in the native species, besides introducing pathogenic agents.

6. The importance to recognize the economic potential of birdwatching tourism. The Azores archipelago is a privileged region for the observation of both American and European migratory bird species (more than 400 species have been observed in recent years), and has a high potential to develop birdwatching tourism, which has been steadily growing. This type of tourism has numerous economic advantages for the Azores: it is an activity which takes part in all the islands; it occurs mainly during autumn and winter, i.e, during the low season; it is a green and sustainable tourism, with low environmental impact; and it brings external money into the Azorean economy. This type of tourism is obviously incompatible with the permission to hunt species from the Azorean bird fauna.

In this context, the signers of this petition request that:

- Native species (breeding or visiting) must not be included in the list of cynegetic species of the Azores.

- Exotic species, namely birds, must not be introduced in the Azores natural environment for hunting purposes.

- The development of a green tourism based in birdwatching, which brings economic advantages to all the Azorean islands is promoted.

Name (Nome Completo) & Email

NOTE. The birds included in the proposal of the Cynegetic List of Species for the Azores Autonomic Region are:
1) Native: Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Gadwall (Anas strepera), Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata), Common Teal (Anas crecca), Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope), Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), Garganey (Anas querquedula), Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix).
2) Exotic: Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa), Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix), Rock Pigeon (Columba livia).

November 2011