Environmental Protection In the Caribbean (EPIC) carried out breeding seabird research in the Lesser Antilles between February and June 2009, to determine the abundance and distribution of breeding seabirds within the archipelago. The research spans two years, with the study continuing in January to July 2010. This allows each island to be surveyed both in the winter (February‐mid April) and summer (May‐ July) breeding seasons.
The basis for the project was the limited existing data on breeding seabird populations in the Lesser Antilles. Many islands had never been systematically surveyed, had incomplete data sets or only anecdotal accounts. Research was, therefore, undertaken in the following islands: St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and the Grenadines. It is intended that breeding surveys will be completed in Sombrero, north of Anguilla in 2010 (they were not undertaken this year due to inclement weather). Similarly, it is planned that Dominica will be included in 2010. It was not surveyed in 2009 due to the perception that data was extant, which was later confirmed incorrect. Anguilla, St. Barthelemy, Guadeloupe, Marie‐Galante, Martinique and Barbados have complete seabird data and were not surveyed by the team. Existing data from these latter islands will be incorporated into the Atlas.
The research will form the Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles. A hard copy will be given to all participating countries in the study area, generally to the government. The data will inform the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) Waterbird Conservation Plan and will be available to the public on the web at the West Indies GIS and OBIS/SEAMAP. The study involved an ongoing literature review of breeding seabird records within existing papers, books and articles, as well as gathering information held in libraries and bird group archives. Anecdotal information from fishermen and other interest groups was also noted. This was particularly interesting in the case of the nocturnal Audubon’s Shearwater, when locations were suggested for historic colonies that were otherwise hard to locate within the time frame of the study. Information on egg poaching and other threats to seabirds was also forthcoming as well as anecdotal trends in seabird numbers.
The field work included collecting data on the number of breeding seabirds and threats to their populations on every island within the study area. Consistent methods were used and documented to allow repeat surveys in the future.
Outreach included presentations and meetings with governments and interest groups, education at schools, and media campaigns. A permit to undertake the non‐obtrusive research was obtained in every participating country. Katharine Lowrie (Project Manager), David Lowrie (Captain and Surveyor) and Megan Friesen (Research Assistant) undertook the research.