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Accepted Paper:

Why look at seabirds? Engaging with visibility in marine conservation  
Oscar Hartman Davies (University of Oxford) Mayline Strouk (STIS, University of Edinburgh CWTS, Leiden University) Bronte Evans Rayward (University of Cambridge)

Short abstract:

In this presentation, we discuss three separate projects looking at cases of scientific research on seabirds to provoke conversations about the varied production, and representation, of knowledge of specific seabird species in multiple local contexts.

Long abstract:

In 1977, John Berger called for citizens to again ‘look’ at animals, to encounter them as agent fellow-beings. Here, we reconfigure Berger’s provocation to the task of looking at seabirds, and those who observe seabirds. Doing so, we aim to spur conversations about representations of a group of animals which cross vast areas, landscapes, and materialities.

We present three case studies that reveal tensions in harnessing certain species for science or conservation. The first investigates how gentoo penguins are made visible, and for what purposes, in the annual Falkland Islands Seabird Monitoring Program (FISMP). The second discusses seabird conservation on Skomer Island, specifically the relationship between the Islands famous Atlantic puffin population, and its lesser known and viewed Manx shearwater population. The third case considers how seabirds become visible, or not, in the electronic monitoring of fisheries, with reference to a seabird bycatch monitoring trial in southern England.

In each case, seabirds are represented for varied reasons. Sometimes to support competing objectives, such as environmental conservation, marine resource exploitation, or to justify narratives of belonging to place. Often, specific species are foregrounded, simplifying seabirds’ complex, interconnected lifeworlds. Narratives built around particular species can support research or conservation measures, but can also reduce the visibility of other less ‘charismatic’ species, and serve to naturalise particular ways of knowing and governing ecologies. Understanding the functions of specific representations of seabirds offers potential methodological insights for multi-species research, and is fundamental to ensuring convivial relations with specific seabird species in dynamic local places.

Traditional Open Panel P071
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -