Of the world’s 264 species of seabirds, 37 percent are categorized as “threatened” on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In perhaps the most urgent case, 19 of the world’s 21 albatross species are threatened, and the other two species are listed as “near-threatened.”
Many factors explain these somewhat dire conditions, but two of the most immediate and damaging threats faced by seabirds are bycatch (where birds are unintentionally caught in fishing equipment and killed) and invasive predator species on nesting islands.
Unfortunately, shorebirds are not faring much better. About 70 percent of North America’s coastal wetlands have been destroyed or dramatically altered, negatively affecting shorebird populations. Of the 31 North American species that rely upon the Pacific coast of the Americas for breeding and wintering habitats, 28 species are thought to be declining. Of the world’s 224 species of shorebirds, 43 are threatened or near-threatened.
The Marine Birds subprogram seeks to stop or reverse this decline of threatened and endangered seabird and shorebird populations. Of particular focus are species that rely on coastal and island habitats in the eastern and central Pacific, where some of the world’s highest concentrations and diversity of seabirds and shorebirds are found.
The Marine Birds subprogram strives to restore seabird and shorebird populations by supporting a range of initiatives in island restoration, seabird bycatch mitigation, and shorebird habitat conservation. The subprogram’s goals are:
- Restoration of critical island habitats through the removal of invasive mammal species from islands in the Pacific that are important for seabirds
- Mitigation of seabird bycatch through the design and application of better technologies and policies in major Pacific fisheries, and
- Conservation of key shorebird habitats along the Pacific Flyway (a major north-south route of travel for migratory birds that extends from Alaska to Patagonia) through improved management of these regions.
While the Packard Foundation understands the importance of scientific research, the Marine Birds subprogram grantmaking for these purposes is very limited and highly selective.