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Our Mission
SPEA is an Environmental not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support research and conservation of wild birds and their habitats, by promoting sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.
Home  > The project > Maritime Censuses
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Maritime Censuses
As part of the Project LIFE Marine IBAs maritime censuses are undertaken to for observe and identify marine birds in the Portuguese maritime area, in order to identify the most important areas for marine birds and to compare them with fishing intensity and oceanographic data.

The maritime censuses consist of one or two ornithologists aboard oceanographic research vessels and/or fishing boats: some of the institutes/partners collaborating in the censuses are:

  • INIAP - IPIMAR,
  • Departamento de Oceanografia e Pescas - Universidade dos Açores,
  • Instituto Hidrográfico.

In addition to the research vessels, sea excursions are also made on boats of maritime tourism companies, transport companies, the Portuguese Navy, the Natural Park of Madeira and privately owned boats.

During the sea excursions, observations are taken of all the species seen within 300m of the boat. To standardize the methods of observation, the ESAS (European Seabirds At Sea) system is used. This is currently used throughout Europe and consists of

  • Identification of the species,
  • Number of individuals present, flying or on the water,
  • Direction of flight
  • Behaviour
  • Association with cetaceans, fishing boats, or others.
This system was specifically developed for the identification of marine birds, but all species of Cetaceans, turtles and fish observed on the transects are also recorded.
For the protection and comfort of observers a wooden observation box was made and is usually placed onboard the vessel. In exceptional situations observations are made from the bridge of the vessel.



Construction of the shelter in metal and wood for the protection of observers at sea.

The shelter placed on the Norwegian IPIMAR vessel, with observers Ivan Ramirez e Ana Meirinho.


Observations being made from the bridge of the Norwegian vessel. This type of observation is only made sporadically.


After the sea excursions it is necessary to compile and analyse the data. The data provided identifies the areas most used by the birds and their behaviour.

 Preliminary results (September 2005): Portuguese EEZ
 Census days 87
 Area (km2) 2.100
 Trip length 7.000
 Number of species identified 40
 Number of birds observed (individuals)
 31.562
 Number of species of cetaceans identified 7
 Number of cetaceans observed (individuals) 1.944
 Most commonly observed birds Cory's Shearwater  Calonectris diomedea
Northern Gannet Sula bassana
Gulls Larus fuscus / Larus cachinnans .


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