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Measuring potential negative effects of traditional harvesting practices on waterbirds: a case study with migrating curlews


Juan G. Navedo, Ciencias y Técnicas del Agua y del Medio Ambiente, Universidad de Cantabria, E-39005 Santander, Spain.


Because of potential conflicts between commercial and conservation interests, one challenge in coastal-area management is how to regulate harvesting practices in coastal areas without adversely affecting the survival of migratory waterbirds. In most Spanish intertidal areas of importance for shorebirds, managers have concentrated only on stock management of the shellfish species. Here, we studied aspects of the foraging behaviour of Eurasian curlews Numenius arquata migrating through a Ramsar area in north Spain in the presence and absence of hand harvesters. We aimed to assess potential negative effects on curlews with a view to making coastal management recommendations that would help reduce conflict between local people and waterbirds. The average density of hand harvesters and foraging curlews at low tide was 0.56±0.09 persons per 10 ha and 16.47±0.73 birds per 10 ha, respectively. The presence of harvesters had a significant effect on foraging activity (no harvesting: 86.47±1.01%; harvesting: 82.70±1.00%). However, the absence of significant differences in all other foraging variables, between days with and without harvesting, indicated that curlews were able to compensate for the impact of harvesters on their foraging activity. We recommend, as a point of departure, that intertidal coastal managers of this Spanish site and similar areas of importance for shorebirds limit the harvesting load to <0.56 persons per 10 ha−1 at least during autumn migration.