Conclusions from the 3rd Pan-European Duck Symposium and meeting of the IUCN-SSC / Wetlands International Duck Specialist Group
In April 2012, 83 experts in duck research and conservation from the IUCN-SSC/Wetlands International Duck Specialist Group, representing 21 countries, met in Jindřichův Hradec, Czech Republic, for the 3rd Pan-European Duck Symposium, a workshop on European seaduck conservation and a meeting of the Nordic Waterbirds and Climate Network.
Four days of workshops and conference presentations were held, and a range of issues discussed, many of fundamental importance to duck conservation and management in Europe. Participants examined the current population status of European ducks, knowledge of their ecology, the monitoring systems used to inform conservation and management activities, and the suitability of existing legislation and policy.
The conference and workshop participants recognised:
- The importance to conservation of accurate population status assessments and the invaluable contribution made to this process by the International Waterbird Census (IWC);
- That the recent reinvigoration of the IWC is very welcome, and that this foundation now needs a sustainable base upon which it can grow and deliver the information needed for effective duck conservation and management;
- That many of these important migratory waterbird populations are experiencing rapid changes in abundance and distribution, and that our best data suggest many are in decline;
- That the serious declines noted among several European seaduck populations, most notably the Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) and Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis), are of particular concern and urgently require the development of coordinated monitoring, research and conservation action;
- That eastern Europe is increasingly important for wintering ducks, and that the availability of count and other data from this region is currently inadequate for population status assessments;
- That knowledge of breeding ducks in Europe remains inadequate, with little information available on the location of key breeding areas, nor trends in pair densities and measures of breeding success;
- The importance of monitoring other demographic measures, particularly individual-based (i.e. from marked birds) effort over the long term, is increasingly important in this period of rapid environmental change, as such data can provide valuable added certainty for population status assessments, as well as information that is essential for the effective management of huntable duck populations;
- That the importance of these data was highlighted in the mid 2000s when concerns regarding highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 arose, which meant that detailed information on the migration routes of ducks was required to understand the potential of wild birds to transmit disease; since then, investment in duck ringing has decreased considerably despite the fact that distributions and migration timing and routes of many ducks remain poorly known and are also rapidly changing, and that the risk of future outbreaks of HPAI H5N1 has not significantly diminished as the disease continues to affect several parts of the world;
- That our monitoring, management and site protection systems are increasingly unsuitable in this period of rapid environmental change, as they lack adequate resources and the flexibility to respond to change;
- That requirements for the management of huntable populations of ducks, such as the collection of bag statistics and the development of systems to ensure harvests are sustainable, as set out in the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), have in most cases not been implemented by AEWA Parties;
- The concern expressed regarding the continued spring hunting of ducks, which remains legal in eastern European countries such as Russia and Belarus;
- That the habitat requirements of ducks need to be adequately taken into account when planning land use policy and local habitat management;
- That there is a need for improved communication between scientists and other experts, and decision makers within the EU and other policy frameworks.