Sooty tern egg collection banned for 2 years in Seychelles after population decline
The collection of sooty tern eggs in Seychelles is banned for two years after a census shows a decline in the population of the species, said a top environment officer recently.
The ban which will be in place for 2022 and 2023 is one of the measures put in place by the Ministry of Environment to ensure that the sooty tern population of Seychelles recovers.
The director general for biodiversity, conservation and management, Marie-May Muzungaile, told the press last week that during the closed season, the ministry will continue to monitor the population through other censuses. This will take place on Desnoeufs, Bird Island, Grande Ile and Ile aux Goëlettes where 95 percent of the total population is.
In June 2021, the Ministry of Environment closed the season for the collection of sooty tern eggs to allow a team to carry out a census on eight islands to determine the bird’s population, size and distribution of colonies in Seychelles.
The census also sought to establish the level of egg harvesting on Cosmoledo, Bird, Aride , Recif, Farquhar, Desneoufs, Etoiles and African Banks.
An analysis of the collected data showed that the population of this oceanic species has declined by 60 to 70 percent on average on all islands.
The distribution of sooty tern was concentrated on Cosmoledo and Desnoeufs with the 1999 figures estimating a total of 1.2 million pairs on Cosmoledo’s Grand Ile.
The current figure for the population on Desnoeufs is around 365,000 sooty tern pairs, the highest number on any other given island. In 1995, the island had over 1.8 million pairs in 1995 which means that there has been a decline of 80.6 percent decline in population.
The 2021 census showed that the biggest loss in population was on African Banks. The last count in 1995 recorded 43,300 pairs whereas today there are 2,661 — a 94 percent reduction.
Found throughout the world’s tropical seas, and as the most abundant seabird in Seychelles, the eggs of this species are a traditional food delicacy and have been harvested in large numbers across many of the islands.
In 2020, the last time eggs were collected in large numbers, a total of 880,000 eggs were harvested and before the ban was imposed in 2021, a small number of eggs were collected right.
Sooty terns are not only threatened by the collection of their eggs but climate change, poaching, loss of habitat and other impacts resulting from human activities.
“We will be increasing surveillance and enforcement, especially on African Banks, Boudeuse and Étoile where poaching is known to occur. We will also be reviewing laws and regulations on the protection of sea birds. A lot of effort will also go towards education and sensitisation on the importance of sea birds in general,” said Muzungaile.
She said that more efforts will also be done to help the bird population by managing vegetation on some of the islands, especially where there are too many invasive plants.
A national plan of action for the management of sooty terns will also be put in place with the participation of all relevant parties.