Credit: Tânia Pipa (SPEA Açores)
From 26 to 30 October, every night between 9pm and 4am there was a blackout on Corvo island, Azores. The island’s public lighting will be turned off, to protect the worlds most endangered group of birds, raise awareness of light pollution and set an example for the region.
The initiative by SPEA and Câmara Municipal do Corvo was focused on a critical period for seabirds. At this time of year, birds like Cory’s Shearwater are leaving the nest and heading out to sea. To avoid predators, they do so at night, but the lights from our towns and cities often blind them, and the disoriented birds end up grounded, not only in the Azores but also in Madeira and the Canary islands, for instance.
This week-long blackout builds on previous initiatives on this island where authorities have increasingly recognised the impact of light pollution on birds and the importance of an energy efficiency policy to protect these species and reach the desired conservation and sustainable tourism goals. Last year, Câmara Municipal do Corvo and SPEA held a one night blackout, and since 2017 the municipality has turned off public lighting during the most critical periods of the SOS Cagarro (SOS Cory’s Shearwater) campaign, in which dozens of volunteers help lost birds get back to sea.
The blackout, which garnered unanimous support in a SPEA survey of 207 Corvo inhabitants, is part of projects Interreg EElabs – which focuses on sustainable use of artificial lighting – and Interreg LuMinAves, which aims to mitigate the impact of light pollution on seabirds. SPEA and our partners on these projects hope that other towns and islands throughout the region will follow Corvo’s example, turning off the lights at crucial times.
Activities in the Canary Islands
The delegation of the Spanish Ornithological Society (Sociedad Española de Ornitología) in the Canary Islands is also planning several actions in the coming weeks. These include the online conference on light pollution and sea birds, in which the coordinator of the EELabs project, Miquel Serra-Ricart (IAC), is participating; an awareness campaign with talks and boat trips on several islands; and the development of a course on sea birds and a teaching unit.
Original press release: Corvo island turns out the lights to protect seabirds