Ivory Gull Strategy, click to downloadThe Ivory Gull is a high Arctic seabird which is often associated with sea ice throughout the year and is one of the most poorly known seabird species.  The Ivory Gull breeds at high latitudes in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic. Small, scattered colonies occur in Arctic Canada, Greenland, Svalbard (Norway), and the northern islands of Russia in the Barents and Kara seas. The wintering distribution of the Ivory Gull is poorly known, although it generally winters along the southern edge of Arctic pack ice in the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. 

The goal of the Ivory Gull Conservation Strategy and Action Plan is to facilitate circumpolar implementation of initiatives to conserve and protect the Ivory Gull in the circumpolar Arctic.


Status and Trends

There is growing concern that the Ivory Gull may be in decline. The most recent information on population trend of Ivory Gulls exists for Canada, Svalbard and Russia:

  • Canada: the Ivory Gull has a highly restricted range, breeding exclusively in Nunavut Territory. Until recently, the Canadian Arctic was thought to support 20-30% of the entire global breeding population. However surveys suggest that the breeding population has declined by 80-85% since the early 1980s.
  • Svalbard: Recent surveys suggest that only a few of the known colonies are still being used there and that the total population is smaller than previously estimated
  • Russia: Information on Russian breeding grounds indicate stable populations breeding at some key colonies, although considerable annual fluctuations in numbers of breeding birds occurs.

The Distribution of Known Breeding Colonies of Ivory Gull Pagophila eburnean within the Arctic 2008


Management Issues and Actions


1.  Ensure that  non-consumptive uses of Ivory Gulls do not threaten their populations

  • Evaluate risks to breeding Ivory Gulls from tourism and other human activities
  • Prepare guidelines for tourist operators to minimize their impacts on Ivory Gulls
  • Work to support education and/or enforcement efforts in support of existing harvest regulations to prevent illegal harvest

2.  Minimize adverse effects on Ivory Gulls from commercial activities

  • Evaluate effects of commercial activity on Ivory Gulls
  • Prepare guidelines to industry operations to minimize their impacts on Ivory Gulls

3.  Protect key habitat to ensure continued viability of Ivory Gull populations that depend on them

  • Prepare summary of protected areas containing important Ivory Gull habitats
  • Evaluate the Circumpolar Protected AreasNetwork (CPAN) and other mechanisms to protect habitats important to the Ivory Gull
  • Identify important Ivory Gull habitat areas still requiring protection and designate them undernational and international systems of protected areas (e.g. Birdlife International system, Important Bird Areas)
  • Identify and implement any additional protective mechanisms such as treaties, agreements, regulations, and policies needed to protect Ivory Gull habitats

4.  Ensure proper coordination with existing programs that affect Ivory Gulls, and encourage awareness of this Ivory Gull Strategy and broad participation in its implementation

  • Support other international and national Ivory Gull conservation initiatives
  • Review existing programs and plans that affect Ivory Gulls to assure proper coordination as plans develop to implement the Strategy
  • Enlist the support of people and groups that areinterested in Ivory Gulls; especially local northern residents
  • Solicit evaluation of actions carried out under the Strategy by specialists in Ivory Gull biology and other relevant disciplines
  • Prepare periodic reports summarizing the status of Ivory Gull populations and accomplishments in Ivory Gull conservation
  • Ensure that Ivory Gull conservation projects include an educational component

5. Provide reliable information about Ivory Gulls needed to implement the Strategy Actions

  • Develop a comprehensive research agenda for each population specifying what informationis most needed, how it will be used, and which countries will be involved in doing the work
  • Develop a research agenda that determines whether distinct Ivory Gull populations exist in the circumpolar Arctic
  • For each major Ivory Gull breeding population, work to estimate population size, productivity, adult survival rates, and identify migration routes and wintering grounds
  • Collaborate with the Arctic CouncilsArctic Monitoring Assessment Program (AMAP) to study contaminants that may be causing mortality or reproductive problems with Ivory Gulls and seek ways to reduce their adverse impacts
  • Develop national and international monitoring plans for Ivory Gulls throughout the circumpolar Arctic
  • Ensure that non-consumptive uses of Ivory Gulls do not threaten their populations
  • Minimize adverse effects on Ivory Gulls by commercial activities
  • Protect key habitat to ensure continued viability of the Ivory Gull populations that depend on them
  • Ensure proper coordination with existing and planned conservation programs
  • Encourage awareness of this Ivory Gull Strategy and broad participation in its implementation
  • Provide reliable information about Ivory Gulls that is needed to implement the Strategy and conserve the species globally


Protection status

  • The Ivory Gull has been protected in West Greenland since 1977 under the Greenland Home Rule Order of 5 May 1988 concerning the protection of birds in Greenland
  • In Svalbard, it has been protected since 1978, under the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act.
  • In Russia, it was listed in the Red Data Book of the USSR (1984) and now is registered as a Category 3 (Rare) species in and is listed in regional Red Data Books along its breeding range in Russia
  • In Canada, the Ivory Gull is a non-game species, and as such is protected in North America under the Migratory Birds Convention Act and related Migratory Bird Regulations. It is currently being up-listed to the status of Endangered Species
  • In 2005, the Ivory Gull was up-listed to Near Threatened (NT) in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list


Implementation guidelines

1. Setting priorities

  • Identify which actions are already being addressed, which actions deserve highest priority for new work, and which of these high priority actions require international collaboration
  • Give high priority to actions likely to reveal the causes of Ivory Gull declines or to reverse such declines
  • Among new work to be initiated under the Strategy, give high priority to helping establish international, national, or regional Ivory Gull monitoring programs

2.  Collaboration

  • Each country should prepare a national implementation plan for the strategy giving special attention to international collaboration
  • Ensure the regional and local governments participate in developing a National Implementation Plan
  • Enlist the participation of local residents and technical specialists at an early stage in deciding how to implement the Strategy

3.  Reporting

  • Provide appropriate opportunities for communication between those involved in carrying out the Strategy
  • Report annually to CAFF summarizing actions taken or planned under the Strategy

Arctic States

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Permanent Participants

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