- Executive Summary
- Recovery Feasibility Summary
- 1. COSEWIC Species Assessment Information
- 2. Species Status Information
- 3. Species Information
- 4. Threats
- 5. Population and Distribution Objectives
- 6. Broad Strategies and Approaches to Recovery
- 7. Critical Habitat
- 8. Measuring Progress
- 9. Statement on Action Plans
- 10. References
- 11. Recovery Team Members
- Appendix A: Ivory Gull Critical Habitat Locations
- Appendix B: Effects on the Environment and Other Species
- 6.1 Actions Already Completed or Currently Underway
- 6.2 Strategic Direction for Recovery
- 6.3 Narrative to Support Recovery Planning Table
An early step towards protecting this species was the establishment of the Seymour Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which at that time protected the only known breeding site for this marine bird. Most of our knowledge on Ivory Gull breeding biology in Canada comes from work at this colony in the 1970s.
More recently, local ecological knowledge interviews were undertaken to determine the geographical extent of declines, and the degree to which northern residents had recognized this. Aerial surveys were undertaken in 2002 – 2006 and 2009, to revisit all known Ivory Gull colonies in Canada (except for one far to the north on eastern Ellesmere Island; Figure 3). These surveys were the first comprehensive efforts to assess the national population status of this species in a single year, and these showed the marked declines in the number of colonies and the number of birds at known colonies (Gilchrist and Mallory 2005). These surveys also discovered many new colonies, and allowed the development of an initial population viability analysis (Robertson et al. 2007). In 2005-2007, a collaborative effort was underway with Diamondex Resources Ltd., whereby this exploration company reported observations of gull colonies on the Brodeur Peninsula, and instituted a buffer zone around those sites so that their surveys did not intrude in nesting habitat. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada), which issues licenses for exploration, has also been made aware of possible nesting locations, and provide an information package to all prospecting license applicants.
The key elements of the strategy to recover Ivory Gulls in Canada are outlined in Table 2.
Efforts to recover the Ivory Gull population in Canada will be feasible, but difficult to implement, in large part because of the extreme remoteness, as well as the challenging logistics and weather that are involved with working near the breeding or wintering range of this species. Additionally, many of the threats affecting Ivory Gulls are international (or are long-term environmental issues that will be slow to change (e.g., climate change)). For example, most of the illegal harvest of adult Ivory Gulls has occurred in Greenland (COSEWIC 2006), despite the fact that there were laws in place to protect the birds since 1977 for West Greenland (where Canadian birds migrate through), and for all of Greenland in 1988 (COSEWIC 2006). Hunting is an important, traditional and commercial activity in Greenland, and this country is not bound by the laws governing North American harvest of birds, so continued scientific collaboration and community outreach are needed.
Inventory and Monitoring
Inventory and monitoring are required to update the status of known colonies and to discover new ones which are prerequisites to the assessment of threats to Ivory Gulls posed by existing and proposed industrial activities. Known Ivory Gulls colonies have declined in size or been extirpated (Robertson et al. 2007), but new colonies were found in 2006 on eastern Ellesmere Island, while regions farther north have not yet been searched. A comprehensive survey through the area determined from a habitat suitability study is required to obtain an overall count on the number of Ivory Gulls in Canada. This should be done in a single year to account for the possibility that gulls could be switching sites among years. Also, the apparent intermittent occupation of some colonies requires that known colonies be resurveyed regularly (e.g., once every 3 years) to track the known breeding population. Seymour Island is the most cost-effective and largest colony to follow, so annual monitoring is recommended for this location. Additional information from the wintering area is recommended, such as a repeat of the winter aerial surveys conducted by Orr and Parsons (1982).
Information on the breeding ecology of Ivory Gulls is scant everywhere in the circumpolar Arctic (Mallory et al. 2008), and that which exists is outdated. An investigation of the reproductive ecology of Ivory Gulls would provide information necessary for understanding possible contaminant effects for developing population models, refining critical habitat identification, and developing setback distances for activities near colonies. Key elements to be identified are: (1) proportion of the adult population that breeds each year; (2) nesting success; (3) fledging success; and (4) recruitment to breeding populations.
As well, tracking birds throughout their annual cycle will provide novel and critical information on sites that these birds require for these life stages away from their colonies. Knowledge of where and when birds move, and how long they stay in different locations provides essential information for identifying other important (e.g. marine protected area) or critical habitat.
Habitat Protection, Population Management, and Enforcement
A number of best management practices for activities occurring near concentrations of birds in Arctic Canada have been developed by Environment Canada, but these have not been refined for Ivory Gulls. Nonetheless, they are an appropriate starting point for implementing important activities near known colonies, particularly in areas with active human disturbance like the Brodeur Peninsula, Baffin Island. Appropriate enforcement of such activities is needed, such as intermittent inspections of mining or prospecting camp activities near known colonies (e.g., getting flight paths).
Stewardship and possibly securement in the form of new protected areas (e.g., national wildlife areas) may be the best option for certain areas, such as the cluster of colonies along the east coast of Ellesmere Island.
Communication and Outreach
The plight of the Ivory Gull has been well-communicated in Arctic Canada through literature, consultations, local knowledge studies, posters, and pamphlets. This effort will need to be increased once plans are in place to implement recovery actions. A good basis exists for cooperation, including with industry, but regular, tailored communication will need to continue. Outreach activities are needed in Newfoundland and Labrador in order to raise awareness amongst local people about the conservation status of Ivory Gulls and in order to encourage local people to report Ivory Gull sightings in their area.
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