MB5: Worldwide partnerships to conserve migratory birds: The Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative

Date: Wednesday October 10, 2018

Location: Valtuustosali, City Hall

Time: 8:30-10:00

Arctic-breeding birds use different flyways to move from Arctic breeding grounds to overwintering or stopover sites at lower latitudes. Many bird populations are declining at an unprecedented rate for variety of reasons, requiring cooperation and protection along entire flyways. This session will highlight CAFF’s Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI), a project designed to improve the status and secure the long-term sustainability of declining Arctic breeding migratory bird populations. This project has worked across four major flyways to engage global partners on the issue of bird and habitat conservation, including the mitigation of harmful anthropogenic actions including development and illegal-killing. This session will contain a series of presentations that highlight the successes of the project to-date and a discussion that will scope possibilities for future direction as the project enters its second phase.


Chair: Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology

Format: Series of presentations followed by discussion 


  1. The Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI) – international cooperation for Arctic breeding migratory birds: successes and challenges of the first 4 years: Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology pdf
  2. What should we do with all these Snow Geese? ...Bringing Inuit local knowledge into management of an international wildlife resource: Victoria Johnston, Environment and Climate Change Canadapdf
  3. Global Conservation Issues in a Northern Context: Addressing Seabird Bycatch in Arctic Fisheries: Amie Black, Environment and Climate Change Canadapdf
  4. AMBI work in the African-Eurasian Flyway, habitat protection: Anders Braa, Norwegian Environment Agencypdf
  5. AMBI work in the most threatened flyway on the planet - East Asian Australasian Flyway: Doug Watkins, AMBIpdf
  6. AMBI, where do we go from here? TBC, AMBI



The Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI) – international cooperation for Arctic breeding migratory birds: successes and challenges of the first 4 years

Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology; Jennifer Provencher, AMBI Coordinator

Arctic-breeding migratory birds are a significant component of both northern culture and ecosystem health. It is also significant shared resource for over a hundred countries on the planet including all Arctic Council observer countries, which are invited to become collaborators on shared conservation actions. The recent Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, delivered to the Arctic Council by CAFF, highlighted that Arctic breeding migratory birds were in significant declines in several regions, and due to the flyway-level movement of migratory birds, a large flyway-level conservation approach is needed to improve their population status. Lots of threats are identified in the non-breeding grounds including two most urgent to be addressed: intertidal habitat reclamation and illegal hunting. It became clear that a new international collaboration was needed to add value to what is already going on to involve extra funding, extra government cooperation including work on the level of Ministries of Foreign Affairs and new collaborations initiated in the Arctic and expanded along the flyways. The Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI) was started by CAFF in 2015, and aims to improve the conservation status of Arctic- breeding migratory birds through flyway-level cooperation with Arctic and non-Arctic countries and partners. In 2015 AMBI was initiated under leadership from Canada, Norway, Russia and the US. Since this time the AMBI has helped to initiate projects on Arctic breeding migratory bird conservation in each of the four defined AMBI flyways (Americas, Circumpolar, African-Eurasian and East Asian-Australasian) for the total amount of *** USD. Actions include the promotion of site protection status through local community engagement, integrating traditional knowledge and science for management planning, assessing illegal killing of birds in some regions and working with local communities including fisherman to estimate seabird bycatch rates.


What should we do with all these Snow Geese? ...Bringing Inuit local knowledge into management of an international wildlife resource

Victoria Johnston, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Dominique Henri, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Natalie Carter, University of Ottawa

Populations of white geese (Snow geese and Ross’ geese) have increased dramatically in North America in the last 50 years. In the eastern and central Arctic these geese have destroyed vegetation over large areas near their colonies. Scientists are doing studies to try to understand the impact that the geese are having on the land and on other animals that share the same habitat. The local committees that manage Bird Sanctuaries near Arviat and Coral Harbour, Nunavut and the Hunters and Trappers Organizations in those communities, consider the current overpopulation of white geese to be an issue of concern. This project documented Inuit knowledge and perspectives about white goose populations on Southampton Island and mainland Kivalliq, as well as goose impacts on the land, other birds, and people. This synthesis of Inuit knowledge is being used by Inuit project participants to form their own recommendations about how to manage white geese in Nunavut. In the final stage of the project, Inuit and western scientists came together to share their findings and develop joint statements or recommendations for the management of white geese in Nunavut. The purpose of this presentation is to present results from this project, and to provide some 'lessons learned' from our attempt to use two knowledge systems to manage a wildlife resource.


Global Conservation Issues in a Northern Context: Addressing Seabird Bycatch in Arctic Fisheries

Amie Black, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Jennifer Provencher, AMBI; Christine Anderson, Carleton University; Mark Mallory, Acadia University; Flemming Merkel, Aarhus University; April Hedd, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Sam Iverson, Environment and Climate Change Canada

Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI): protecting Arctic lifestyles and peoples through migratory bird conservation is a response to the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment Key Finding #3. AMBI is designed to improve the status and secure the long-term sustainability of Arctic breeding bird populations throughout their migratory range. Globally, commercial fisheries are estimated to kill hundreds of thousands of seabirds every year. One of the main objectives under the Circumpolar Flyway workplan is to better understand and mitigate the impacts of fishing activities on seabird populations. To accomplish this objective, we initiated work in an emerging Greenland Halibut commercial fishery in Nunavut, Canada, where fishing levels are currently low but expected to increase significantly, as well as in in Iceland where commercial fisheries are well-established but bycatch mitigation techniques are not yet developed or implemented. This presentation will report on results of our activities and explore our approach to working with Indigenous communities, multiple levels of government, and industry stakeholders to implement seabird bycatch assessments in a Northern context.


AMBI work in the African-Eurasian Flyway, habitat protection

Anders Braa, Norwegian Environment Agency; Nicola Crockford, Birdlife International, Nina Mikander, AEWA

Habitat degradation and destruction is a major conservation threat for migratory birds throughout the world’s flyways. In the African-Eurasian Flyway, Arctic breeding migratory birds utilize areas from the Russian and European Arctic to the tip of southern Africa. One of the most important wintering and stop-over sites are the low-lying coastal regions of the Bijagós Archipelago in Guinea-Bissau which see an estimated 1.5 million shorebirds pass through each year. This region is currently threatened from unsustainable land use and economic development including illegal fishing, removal of mangroves for fishing camps, conversion of floodplain habitats to rice fields and coastal erosion due to sea level rise. To promote the conservation and responsible development of this region AMBI is working with partners to support the nomination of the Bijagós region as a World Heritage Site. This includes developing site specific management plans, and learning from partners in the Common Wadden Sea where there is a successful intertidal World Heritage Site currently which includes habitat important for Arctic-breeding migratory birds. This process is being bolstered by AMBI throughout an increase in international profile for the region in various forums that is helping garner support for the nomination process. More active work is planned after African-Eurasian Flyway AMBI coordinator would start working in mid 2018. Future expansion of AMBI activities should include evaluation of scale of key threats: intertidal reclamation and illegal hunting for the whole of Africa and Middle East with further development of the action plan to mitigate the threats and improve the network of protected areas at key sites for Arctic migratory birds on the flyway. 


AMBI work in the most threatened flyway on the planet - East Asian Australasian Flyway

Doug Watkins, AMBI; Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology; Jennifer Provencher, AMBI

Arctic-breeding birds in the East Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF) travel long distances between Arctic Russia and the US for the breeding season, and East Asia, South-east Asia and Australia during the non-breeding months. East Asia and SE Asia are proved by numerous scientific publication the hardest place for waterbirds to survive on the planet. Number of species threatened by extinction is higher then on all other flyways together. Economic development and unsustainable harvest are threatening majority of Arctic species. Two main threats: intertidal reclamation and illegal hunting are in focus of AMBI work in the region. There is significant progress in the first field and very little in the second. Active participation of China and Singapore as part of cooperation under AC in 2016-17 help to achieve significant success. Further cooperation with these two countries and hopefully future collaboration with Japan, India and Korea are giving hope that number of model Arctic species, including charismatic flagship Spoon-billed Sandpiper (less than 200 breeding pairs on Earth) would not get extinct. There is still a lot to do here. Endangered Lesser White-fronted Goose in East Asia had declined over 70% over last 15 tears and need urgent conservation measures in China and Russia being as low as just over 6,000 birds left. One of the conservation threats that AMBI is focusing in all flyways is the unsustainable harvest or take of Arctic breeding birds. In the EAAF AMBI has been working with partners to build support and consensus around tackling the issue of illegal hunting, taking and trade of migratory birds. This work has included hosting a workshop on illegal taking of migratory birds with Singapore, developing a task force on the issue with partners at the East Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) Meeting of the Parties, and the subsequent adoption of a similar joint working group under the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS) all in 2017. Both TF and WG are not yet activated and a lot of work ahead. The aim for the nearest future is collaborative actions of joint forces of all NGOs and governments on the flyway to develop a situation analysis and plan of action to mitigate huge scale (possibly over 30 million of birds annually) illegal bird take on the Flyway. Collaboration with Asian AC observer countries is the key for addressing the issues on the AMBI 2.0 stage.


AMBI, where do we go from here?

Jennifer Provencher, Acadia University - AMBI; Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology; Doug Watkins, AMBI; Isadora Angarita, AMBI; Courtney Price, CAFF

The Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative (AMBI) is a CAFF project that directly aims to address recommendations from the Arctic biodiversity assessment. AMBI's approved workplan covers the time period from 2015-2019. Building on the successes of AMBI to date with partners, we are actively reviewing and discussing how a second phase of AMBI will be developed with partners that will capitalize on our successes to date. This will include both continuing to build on long term projects that increase the conservation status of Arctic-breeding migratory birds, and new objectives. This presentation will review the AMBI mid-term evaluation, and discuss what priorities and objectives are being considered in the development of the 2019-2023 workplan in collaboration with Arctic Council observers and partners. This will include reporting on discussion items from the AMBI 2.0 Planning meeting that will take place as part of the Congress.

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