Alderney's Ramsar site was designated in 2005, becoming the first Ramsar site in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Now it makes up one of eight Ramsar sites in the Channel Islands.
Alderney's Internationally Important Wetlands
Alderney achieved the Ramsar designation in 2005 in part because of the regionally, nationally and internationally important populations of seabirds. In particular, the islets of Ortac and Les Etacs support around 1% of the world population of Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus).
On the 3rd of February 1971 18 countries met in the Iranian city of Ramsar to sign The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. This became known as the Ramsar Convention, and is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
For more information on the history and regulations of the Ramsar Convention go to www.ramsar.org
In order to maintain this designation the Alderney Wildlife Trust (on behalf of the States of Alderney) put together a 5 year management strategy in 2006 to manage the site from 2007-2011.
The work carried out by the AWT focuses on seabird and marine monitoring work, with terrestrial and public awareness activities also a part of the management strategy. Known as the Alderney West Coast and Burhou Islands Ramsar Site Management and Monitoring Strategy, it was reviewed and renewed in 2012 up to 2016. In 2016 ARS3 was drawn up for the 2017-2021 period, incorporating new aspects to engage with stakeholders and the community involved in the Ramsar site as well as streamlining monitoring methodologies.
Since 2005 data has been collected on 10 seabird species for population size and productivity (success of raising a chick) rates and marine habitat mapping is carried out in new locations each year. The recording of this data is continued and expanded each year by the AWT in order to better understand the ecological processes of the Ramsar site and conserve its diversity within the convention guidelines.
All of the data gathered is not only used in the management of the Ramsar site but also in providing resources for the LIVE: Teaching through Nature interactive education project. You can watch the puffins on Burhou live from March - July when they are on the island on the LIVE website.
All the data we collect can be found in the latest reports on the Ramsar site which are downloadable in pdf format at the bottom of the page.
Puffin Friendly Zone
Following observations of a decline in Burhou’s puffin population and concerns of disturbance impacting breeding success the AWT, in collaboration with the States of Alderney, the Alderney Marine Management Forum, Alderney Harbour Office and local fishermen, designated a “Puffin Friendly Zone” in 2018. This zone, which is in place during the annual puffin breeding season, aims to provide the puffins with a safe area to rest, undisturbed by visiting or passing boats. Puffins are easily disturbed when rafting on the water, leading them to take flight which uses up vital energy reserves and interrupts feeding and parenting habits. This sort of disturbance can have a significant impact on breeding success.
We kindly ask all mariners to help protect puffins by following the associated code of conduct when near Burhou. Anyone can help by raising awareness of the Puffin Friendly Zone and helping to police it by informing the Alderney Harbour Office or the AWT if they see marine users within the zone.
The AWT monitors the puffins as part of the management of the Alderney Ramsar Site. The Puffin Friendly Zone represents a practical conservation response to the information gathered via monitoring, including the decline in the puffin population on Burhou between 2012 and 2017. Recent information suggests numbers may be beginning to stabilise, highlighting the importance of the Puffin Friendly Zone.
Atlantic puffins are currently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species in Europe, with rapid population declines likely due to threats including human disturbance, climate change, renewable energy production, pollution and shifting species distributions. Such threats, compounded with the species low breeding rates (1 chick per pair per year), makes puffins very sensitive species.