24/05/2014
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Seabird sanctuary threatened by luxury hotel

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Aerial view of Sa Conillera, Ibiza, where a globally important population of Balearic Shearwater is under threat from developers. Photo: Xaviduran (commons.wikimedia.org).
Aerial view of Sa Conillera, Ibiza, where a globally important population of Balearic Shearwater is under threat from developers. Photo: Xaviduran (commons.wikimedia.org).
Sa Conillera island, one of the best preserved Mediterranean seabird colonies in the Balearic archipelago and home to the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater, is under severe threat.

Plans to build a boutique hotel in the uninhabited reserve have caused alarm across Ibiza. A debate organised yesterday by the Sociedad Española de Ornitología (SEO/BirdLife) and the Ibiza Preservation Fund concluded that the highest level of precaution is needed to avoid irrevocable damage to the island’s biodiversity.

"The meeting sends a strong message to the developers and to the Balearic government," stated Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Europe. "Although many in society see moneymaking opportunities in our last wild places, it is encouraging to see that the people of the Balearic archipelago recognise the area’s intrinsic value."

The island is a protected national marine area and is safeguarded by EU law for its seabirds through the Natura 2000 network. But this is all about to change when the only building on the tiny  island, the lighthouse, will be converted into an exclusive boutique hotel. The development and running of touristic infrastructure will disrupt the breeding seabirds, many of which nest right next to the building.

"The hotel will also increase the risk of introducing predators such as cats and mice, which would prey on seabird eggs and chicks," said Pep Arcos, Marine Coordinator at SEO/BirdLife Spain, "with devastating impacts on the population of Balearic Shearwater, a species which is already on the brink of extinction." 

The development would also be an infringement of European law, a potentially costly decision for the Spanish government. "Tourism is important, but it should not override all limits. National governments should not abandon their binding commitments, such as the Marine Natura 2000 network, in the face of money-making ventures," said Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer at BirdLife Europe.

SEO/BirdLife has already taken its concerns to the developers and the Spanish government, and will maintain the pressure alongside other local NGOs in the hope that the decision will be overturned. Meanwhile, BirdLife Europe will ensure that EU is fully aware of any impending infringement by the Spanish authorities.