RAM is a Iberian Seabird and Marine Mammal Monitoring Network based on the Spanish and Portuguese coast. The Project co-ordinates the efforts of several studies of seabirds and cetaceans on the Iberian Peninsula, Balearic Islands, Madeira and north of Africa (Ceuta and Melilla) to improve the knowledge and conservation of species distributed along the south European Atlantic and Mediterranean coast. Participation is free for anybody interested in marine species and the project is run in a non profit way.
Data complied by RAM will ultimately provide a long term data set which can be used to assess the real situation of abundance and movements of seabirds and cetaceans off the north Spanish and Portuguese coasts. The censuses from the seashore are a limited method, in terms of their accuracy, but they can be used to provide an index of the abundance and distribution of species near the coast. An important point of the counts carried out during RAM monitoring is the use of a standard methodology to record the information. Data are recorded following common protocols used by all observers and simultaneously in the same day. Therefore, those data will give systematic and rigorous information to obtain results on presence of species by geographic area and by month.
Other similar projects at other geographic areas such as Britain, the Netherlands and Scandinavia manage similar databases from the 1970’s. These programs monitor long-term seabird trends, with the participation of hundreds of seawatchers. The volunteers monitor the migrations, movements related to weather, feeding, roost activities and wrecks of seabirds.
Several Spanish and Portuguese organizations support RAM through their member’s participation and have helped promote the project.
The main aim of RAM is to coordinate all ornithologists interested on seabirds and marine mammals in the southern European coasts. The running of a coordinated network will focus the observer’s work on following objectives:
1. To obtain information on abundance and distribution of seabird and marine mammal species off Spanish and Portuguese coast.
2. To build a database with data on movements, relative abundances and behaviour.
3. To standardized the methodology.
4. To improve the co-operation between ornithologists and cetologists.
5. To involve volunteers in studies and conservation of marine fauna.
The first activity of RAM has been to carry out the “seabird and cetacean observation days”. The project organised the observers at different capes and coastal points along the area (during the same day and hours) to record the presence and movements of those species. The data collected includes the species, numbers, flight direction, age of bird, etc.
Participants of RAM are contacted by email and the Internet. The Project is based on area coordinators and cape coordinators to organise the census and exchange information. The project has a web site where information, activities and periodical reports are available. A digital newsletter is published every three months which includes the results of seawatching days and other related information.
The announcement of seawatching days is communicated by email to volunteers and to the Internet discussion forums of Spain and Portugal.
At the beginning of the project, a seawatching protocol, field data sheets and database were designed. The development of methodologies was carried out by experienced seabird ornithologists and cetologists. Several versions were finally adapted to the objectives of the coordinated censuses, trying to design protocols that were easy to use and understand by all observers.
Several days before the “RAM day”, the interested observers contact the heads of capes who organizes the observation day. The protocols and field data sheets and instructions are available at the web. After seawatching the observers fill a basic database (Excel format) and send the data to coordinators. All data are entered into a database of the project.