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Extreme Weather: AEWA Parties Requested to Take Emergency Measures

The sudden onset of winter in parts of Europe, particularly in the south-east of the continent, with extreme low temperatures and heavy snow storms has been affecting waterbird populations. In light of these harsh conditions, the AEWA Secretariat has contacted Contracting Parties that have been affected or potentially affected by the cold spell and encouraged them to evaluate the situation in their countries and consider enacting emergency measures, such as the temporary suspension of waterbird hunting.

Field teams carrying out the 51st edition of the International Waterbird Census from 14 to 15 January across Europe reported on the impact of the cold spell. While conditions hampered the attempts of the counters to conduct the mid-winter census, the extreme weather has posed a considerable threat to waterbird populations. This year, our colleagues in the Balkans are sending us very disturbing pictures and first-hand accounts of large numbers of waterbirds – including the Red-breasted Goose – suffering greatly from exposure to the extreme low temperatures and snow storms affecting South-eastern Europe. Under such conditions birds aggregate in larger numbers at wetlands with still, open water and suffer from food shortage. Earlier research has shown the vulnerability of  waterbird populations to such conditions and the importance of restricting hunting and other disturbances, not only in the areas directly affected by the severe weather conditions but also at areas that act as cold weather refuges.

Wetlands International, the AEWA Secretariat and other organisations called upon national authorities and hunting associations to minimise disturbance, to apply emergency measures and report on the situation. Several countries, e.g. Croatia and Greece, have already suspended hunting. BirdLife International  has joined calls for national authorities and hunting associations to take emergency measures and have welcomed the temporary suspension of hunting in Greece during this perilous time. This emergency situation requires intensive monitoring, but the resources of the regional waterbird count field teams in the Balkans and around the Aegean Sea – already so reliant on volunteers – have been stretched to their limits.

However, resources for intensive monitoring in such emergency situations are limited in these countries. Therefore, the Strategic Working Group of the African-European Waterbird Monitoring Partnership agreed to launch an emergency appeal to gather donations to support field teams in Southeastern Europe to monitor the conditions of waterbirds and their cold weather refuges. If you want to support this activity use the bank account details provided on the Donate page and write “SE Europe Emergency” into the note field of your transfer instructions.



Geese caught in cold spell in Bulgaria - photo Ralica Georgieva
Redbreasts and Greater Whitefronts in snow blizzard in Bulgaria - N. Petkov
Geese in Burgas region, Bulgaria - R. Georgieva