Urgent need to develop standard monitoring protocols regarding impact of offshore oil and gas developments on endangered pelagic seabirds

Reference Number

Zino’s Petrel (Pterodroma madeira) and Deserta’s Petrel (Pterodroma deserta), endemic to the Madeira region, are two of the rarest and most endangered seabirds in our planet. With an estimated population of ~ 80 and 180 breeding pairs (Menezes et al. 2010), respectively, they were classified by IUCN as “Endangered” and “Vulnerable” species in 2018. They are medium size gadfly tubenoses (Procellariiformes: Procellariidae), which only visit land during the breeding season. Their nocturnal habits on land and remoteness of breeding and foraging areas make these species virtually unknown to the general public.

Deployment of nano-GPS on incubating adults has shown that they are also frequent visitors to the NW Atlantic during the breeding season, flying from Madeira to the deep waters off the Canadian shelf in Newfoundland (Ventura et al. 2020, Silva et al. unpublished). These journeys take up to 12 days, with birds making repeated visits during a single season.

Conservation efforts targeting these species have been directed towards threats on the breeding grounds (Menezes et al. 2010). However, little is known about the dangers they encounter at sea. Many small to medium size tubenoses are attracted to artificial night lights on land (Rodríguez et al. 2012). Attraction to intense light sources at sea, such as those from fishing vessels operating in deep ocean waters, and flames and night lights from gas and oil offshore extraction platforms are also a major source of mortality to tubenoses (eg, Ellis et al. 2013). Further oil and gas extraction developments in offshore eastern Canada will overlap with known foraging ranges of these two extremely rare seabirds increasing their risk of mortality due to the risk of collision, disorientation and burning from flying into flames.


The frequent presence of these two highly endangered North Atlantic seabirds off the Canadian EEZ must be taken into consideration by the Canadian Government when estimating the impact of future oil and gas exploratory drilling offshore Newfoundland and Labrador. At this point we urge the Regional Assessment Committee to include this information on its Regional Assessment Report (under Section, Rare Species)

We also ask the Canadian Government to establish with urgency standard methodologies and protocols to evaluate the real impact that oil and gas platforms as well as other sources of artificial lights have on seabirds and specifically on gadflys (Pterodroma sp.), as all five North Atlantic species are highly endangered.


Ellis, J. I., S. I. Wilhelm, A. Hedd, G. S. Fraser, G. J. Robertson, J.-F. Rail, M. Fowler, and K. H. Morgan. 2013. Mortality of migratory birds from marine commercial fisheries and offshore oil and gas production in Canada. Avian Conserv Ecol. 8: 4

Menezes D, Oliveira P, Ramírez I. 2010. Pterodromas do arquipélago da Madeira, duas espécies em recuperação. Serviço do Parque Natural da Madeira, Funchal.

Rodríguez A, Rodríguez B & Lucas MP. 2012. Trends in numbers of petrels attracted to artificial lights suggest population declines in Tenerife, Canary Islands. Ibis 154, 167–172.

Ventura F, Granadeiro JP, Padget O, Catry P. 2020. Gadfly petrels use knowledge of the windscape, not memorized foraging patches, to optimize foraging trips on ocean-wide scales. Proc. Biol. Soc. 287(1918):20191775.

Submitted by
Mónica C. Silva
Public Notice
Comment Tags
Species at Risk
Date Submitted
2020-02-10 - 8:04 AM
Date modified: