Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment (FAME)
The Future of the Atlantic Marine Environment (FAME) is an ambitious international project to help safeguard the future of the biodiversity of the Atlantic Ocean. Led by the RSPB, it brings together expertise from leading European wildlife charities, academia, and the renewable energy industry. The project's purpose is to advise on the designation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as well as develop best practice management recommendations of these areas. The challenge is locating the important sites which should be designated as MPAs, to properly protect all marine creatures, as well as ensure food security by allowing fish stocks to recover. One of the best ways to do this is by tracking seabirds as they provide information on the distribution of key food species, thereby showing a broader picture of the health of the Atlantic marine environment.
FAME is the largest seabird tracking study ever undertaken. The FAME project will be delivered by seven partners all of whom have knowledge and expertise in the marine environment across five countries (see map below). In the UK, scientists are working at five sites along the Atlantic coast (Fair Isle and Orkney in northern Scotland; Colonsay in the Hebrides; Bardsey Island in Wales; and the Isles of Scilly) working with five seabird species: fulmar, shag, kittiwake, guillemot and razorbill. Elsewhere scientists will be involved with other seabirds, including the gannet, European storm-petrel, Madeiran storm-petrel, Balearic and Cory's shearwaters. High-resolution GPS tags are being deployed on shags, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars in the UK, and on gannets and Balearic shearwaters outside the UK. Downloads from the tags provide an accurate picture of where birds go when they leave the colony. By the end of the project, FAME will have developed a comprehensive map of seabird movements, providing crucial information for those designating where MPAs should be located and how they should be managed.
Knowing the where and why of seabird foraging will be crucial in informing the designation of MPAs across the north-east Atlantic. It is hoped that by relating the distribution data from the seabird tracking work to oceanographic features, we will be able to see not only where birds are foraging, but why birds are foraging in these areas. Data from the GPS tags and depth loggers will provide key information on how diving seabirds might interact with new marine renewable energy devices - particularly wave and tidal technologies. This information will also be vital in shaping marine management decisions, as the interactions between seabirds and marine industries become clearer. This work couldn't come at a better time, with new marine planning and nature conservation provisions available under the recently enacted UK and Scottish Marine Acts. It will be critical that we ensure that the FAME project findings be put to good use in the implementation of these new laws.
- To establish a transnational evidence base to inform decisions on the Atlantic marine environment.
- To improve knowledge of seabird distribution and population characteristics in the Atlantic Area.
- To measure the breeding success of seabirds at key colonies.
- To identify the marine foraging areas of key indicator seabird species and the oceanographic features associated with these areas.
- To develop statistical models to predict the foraging areas of seabird at other colonies based on common oceanographic features and colony characteristics.
- To recommend sites for MPA designation by mapping marine sites that are critical to the survival of threatened / important marine seabird species.
- To assess the potential for impacts of human activity (particularly fisheries & wind farms) on important sites.
- To produce recommendations for managing those important sites for the benefit of threatened / important marine seabird species.
- To provide current or future stakeholders who manage important marine sites, with information on how best to operate for the benefit of threatened / important seabird species.
- To communicate project wide results effectively with key stakeholders, decision makers, scientists, NGOs, marine professionals and the public about the importance of the Atlantic marine environment and role they can play in protecting it.
Key dates so far
- The third year of fieldwork is in progress.
- Work commenced towards implementing a main database storage area of fisheries by-catch data across the five countries in order to share the findings and assess the levels of by-catch and be able to advise on mitigation measures to decrease this. The RAM methodology is being used in the coastal census and the ESAS methodology is being used in census at sea.
- On-going aerial, coastal and sea surveys are being conducted, as well as monitoring of seabird colonies, and collation of oceanographic data.
- Examination of seabird regurgitation taking place.
- Data being subjected to detailed quantitative analysis to characterise searching and foraging behaviour of seabirds at different spatial scales and to relate distribution of foraging areas to underlying oceanographic features.
- Set up of a coastal network that would survive the FAME project is in progress.
- Beach surveys initiated and all animals found are being necropsied.
- Surveys from planes covered the entire Portuguese coastline, totaling roughly 6200 km per year. Data collected has been introduced in databases and analysis of the results has been initiated.
- To date the results are being used to help guide policy talks regarding marine protected area designation.
Work planned or underway
- Collecting data by tracking and monitoring seabirds
- Assessing the impact of human activity (particularly fisheries & wind farms) on important sites
- Producing recommendations for managing those important sites for the benefit of threatened / important marine seabird species
- Providing current or future stakeholders who are engaged with managing important marine sites, with information on how best to operate for the benefit of threatened / important seabird species.
The creation of the project website (www.FAMEproject.eu) is a major contribution to the Atlantic Area Programme, as it gives details of the work we are doing and the results we are achieving.
We have retrieved 555 tags providing more than 750 foraging trips and 13,000 dives on seabirds across the UK, and LPO deployed 46 GPS and 55 GLS tags on the Rouzic gannet colony in France over the two year period.
Monitoring by-catch commenced in the Viana do Castelo, Porto, Aveiro and Figueira harbours with five observers on board different vessels. On average seven trips were performed by observer per month. A total of 105 days of observations from fishing boats were performed over the two year period.
Full census of the breeding population and breeding success assessment of Cory’s shearwaters at Berlenga has been concluded. Electronic tagging on Cory’s shearwaters at Berlenga colony are now completed.
SEO participated in Berlengas Marine Spatial Planning management plan work meetings. A scientific paper regarding Marine Important Bird Area identification, methodology used and results for Berlengas Marine Important Bird Area was published in the "Geographic Technologies applied to Marine Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Zone Management".
Data from the FAME project are being made publically available to download. To do this, please download a data request form below. Your request will be reviewed and you will be sent a password to enable you to download the data free of charge. The data can be downloaded as maps in normal PDF format or as shapefiles for GIS applications. If you would like to request information from the FAME project, or other RSPB seabird tracking projects, that is not described here or would like data in a different format please describe your data needs on the request form. The following data are available: FAME data available now:
- Maps showing the trips made by breeding seabirds recorded using high resolution GPS tags for the following sites, species and years:
Other data will be added to the site as it becomes available.
- Fair Isle 2010: Kittiwake, Shag.
- Fair Isle 2011: Razorbill, Kittiwake.
- Orkney 2010: Razorbill, Kittiwake, Shag and Fulmar.
- Orkney 2011: Razorbill, Kittiwake, Shag and Fulmar.
- Colonsay 2010: Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Shag.
- Colonsay 2011: Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Shag.
- Bardsey 2011: Razorbill, Kittiwake.
- Puffin Island, Anglesey 2011: Razorbill.
- Isles of Scilly 2010: Kittiwake, Shag.
- Isles of Scilly 2011: Kittiwake, Shag.
- Coming Soon:
- Tables giving summaries of maximum and mean maximum foraging range for the above sites, years and species .
- Tables giving summaries of dive depth information for the following sites, diving species and years:
- Fair Isle 2011: Razorbill, Guillemot.
- Orkney 2011: Razorbill, Guillemot, Shag.
- Colonsay 2011: Razorbill, Guillemot, Shag.
- Final FAME project report including the results of habitat association modelling work which aims to predict UK foraging hotspots for seabirds and link them to their underlying habitat features.
- Maps from other (non-FAME) RSPB seabird GPS tracking projects can also be downloaded, as follows:
- Flamborough Cliffs 2009: Kittiwake
- Flamborough Cliffs 2010: Kittiwake
- Flamborough Cliffs 2011: Kittiwake
- Alde-Ore Estuary SPA (Orfordness and Havergate) 2010: Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull
- Alde-Ore Estuary SPA (Orfordness and Havergate) 2011: Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull
Species affected (not UK birds)
Madeiran storm petrel
Kittiwakes with GPS trackers
FAME project Atlantic Area Map
Ellie and Tessa, the Colonsay-based members of the FAME project team, downloading data from a GPS logger showing a bird’s movements between its breeding colony and feeding grounds.
Common Guillemot Uria aalge with a chick, Gunnawark, Fair Isle.
Ellie and Tessa, the Colonsay-based members of the FAME project team, looking for rope-anchor points before attempting capture of sea birds on the cliffs at their breeding colony.
Who to contact
The five wildlife charities are all national representatives of the global partnership, BirdLife International:
- Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK)
- BirdWatch Ireland (Ireland)
- Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (France)
- Sociedad Espanola de Ornitologia (Spain)
- Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (Portugal)
The other 2 partners are both based in Portugal:
- WaveEnergy Centre – a non-profit organisation dedicated to the development and promotion of Ocean Wave Energy
- University of Minho – one of Portugal’s largest universities, studying and developing methods to reduce by-catch in Atlantic fisheries
The FAME project is funded by the European Commission through the European Regional Development Fund, Atlantic Area Transnational Programme to the sum of €2.2 million with an additional €1.2 million funded by the project partners.
Investing in our common future.