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Millions of birds vacuumed to death in Mediterranean

olivesNew research has discovered that millions of birds are being vacuumed up as part of nocturnal suction olive harvesting in the Mediterranean.

From October to January the machinery operates at night and in Andalusia, Spain, an estimated 2.6 million birds are vacuumed to death annually, with the regional government recently putting a stop to the practice. In Portugal, some 96,000 birds are thought to die every winter. The problem is feared to be so vast that Portuguese researchers have recently written a letter to Nature, pleading that nocturnal olive harvesting is ceased.

Huge numbers of birds from central and northern Europe winter in the Mediterranean, and while they are roosting at night the olive picking machines begin their work. The loud noise and dazzling illumination of the lights is thought to disorientate the birds, who are unable to escape and end up being sucked into the machines in large numbers. The trees are stripped at night because cool temperatures help preserve the olives' aromatic compounds.

The Andalusian government has already put a stop to the practice, but other Mediterranean countries – including France, Italy and Portugal – are yet to take action. A separate study found that nearly 100,000 birds die annually in Portugal as a result of suction olive harvesting. The research also found that, between December and January in Alentejo, an average of 6.4 birds died per hectare of intensive olive grove farmland.

This sample is small, and further studies will be undertaken when the harvest season recommences in October. However, the figures are worrying and – if Andalusia is a fair example – then suction harvesting consists of a serious threat to species wintering in the Mediterranean.

Domingos Leitão, from Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA), said: "They [the birds] should not be subject to disturbance in the rest period. If the birds in one row of olive trees are frightened, they fly to another; the [EU's] Birds Directive says that they should not be disturbed during the rest period."

Nuno Sequeira added: "When negative impacts like these are detected, the authorities must act swiftly and accordingly. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of dead birds. The lack of regulation allows birds to die as well as other environmental impacts, such as soil erosion and contamination and pollution of aquifers with synthetic chemicals used in intensive and super-intensive agriculture."



Roosting birds are helpless as the machines hoover up olives at night (Junta de Andalucía).



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+3 #6 JamesAlgarve 2019-05-22 07:48
The more we learn about the food we are eating,the faster we will change to a world where everyone is at least fed.
In the USA they spend more on pet food than could feed the planet.
What kind of a human race are we?
+4 #5 Rupert Mitchell 2019-05-21 18:38
This barbaric and evil practice must surely be on of the most disgusting I have come across and I hope the authorities will take immediate action to make it illegal and to punish the offenders. What sort of world are we developing through the greed of people prepared to do this in order to make financial profit?
+4 #4 Burford Angus 2019-05-20 05:38
Absolutely shocking to know that this is allowed here. It should be stopped immediately! What can we do to put more pressure on the authorities ?
+3 #3 Cindy 2019-05-20 01:01
This is absolutely shocking to me
that this practice continues! It’s all about
The mighty dollar!
+4 #2 Cap 2019-05-19 22:42
How sad, shocking and callous, to allow vast amounts of birds to be killed in vacuum harvesting olives at night. Spain has now banned the practice..Portugal must also!
+6 #1 Verjinie 2019-05-19 11:19
OMG! Couldn't the operators give the birds some time to take flight before starting up the suction process? Without birds, habitat, insects, bees, there will be no olives or anything much left worth eating. :sad: :cry: :eek: :sigh:

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