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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01076

Important marine areas for the conservation of northern rockhopper penguins within the Tristan da Cunha Exclusive Economic Zone

Antje Steinfurth*, Steffen Oppel, Maria P. Dias, Thomas Starnes, Elizabeth J. Pearmain, Ben J. Dilley, Delia Davies, Mara Nydegger, Chris Bell, Fabrice Le Bouard, Alexander L. Bond, Richard J. Cuthbert, Trevor Glass, Azwianewi B. Makhado, Robert J. M. Crawford, Peter G. Ryan, Ross M. Wanless, Norman Ratcliffe

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The designation of Marine Protected Areas has become an important approach to conserving marine ecosystems that relies on robust information on the spatial distribution of biodiversity. We used GPS tracking data to identify marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) for the endangered northern rockhopper penguin Eudyptes moseleyi within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic. Penguins were tracked throughout their breeding season from 3 of the 4 main islands in the Tristan da Cunha group. Foraging trips remained largely within the EEZ, with the exception of those from Gough Island during the incubation stage. We found substantial variability in trip duration and foraging range among breeding stages and islands, consistent use of areas among years and spatial segregation of the areas used by neighbouring islands. For colonies with no or insufficient tracking data, we defined marine IBAs based on the mean maximum foraging range and merged the areas identified to propose IBAs around the Tristan da Cunha archipelago and Gough Island. The 2 proposed marine IBAs encompass 2% of Tristan da Cunha’s EEZ, and are used by all northern rockhopper penguins breeding in the Tristan da Cunha group, representing ~90% of the global population. Currently, the main threat to northern rockhopper penguins within the Tristan da Cunha EEZ is marine pollution from shipping, and the risk of this would be reduced by declaring waters within 50 nautical miles of the coast as ‘Areas To Be Avoided’.