Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

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Black-vented Shearwaters have increased on Mexican islands

Yuliana Bedolla-Guzmán and colleagues (Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.) have published in the Island Invasives: Scaling up to Meet the Challenge conference proceedings on the conservation of seabirds on Mexican islands, including the Near Threatened Black-vented Shearwater Puffinus opisthomelas.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The Baja California Pacific Islands, Mexico, are globally important breeding sites for 22 seabird species and subspecies. In the past, several populations were extirpated or reduced due to invasive mammals, human disturbance, and contaminants.  Over the past two decades, we have removed invasive predators and, for the last decade, we have been implementing a Seabird Restoration Programme on eight groups of islands: Coronado, Todos Santos, San Martín, San Jerónimo, San Benito, Natividad, San Roque, and Asunción.  This programme includes monitoring; social attraction techniques; removal of invasive vegetation; reducing human disturbance; and an environmental learning and biosecurity programme.  Here, we summarise historical extirpations and recolonisations during the last two decades of restoration actions, and we update the status of breeding species after more than a decade.  To date, from 27 historically extirpated populations, 80% have returned since the first eradication in 1995.  Social attraction techniques were key in recolonisations of Cassin’s auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus), royal tern (Thalasseus maximus), and elegant tern (T. elegans). A total of 19 species breed on these islands, four more species than a decade ago, including 12 new records.  The most abundant seabirds, black-vented shearwater (Puff nus opisthomelas), Cassin’s auklet, western gull (Larus occidentalis), and Brandt’s cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus), have shown a remarkable population increase.  Current threats include the potential reintroduction of invasive mammals, guano mining, recreational activities, pollution, and commercial fisheries.  To maintain these conservation gains in the long-term it is necessary to continue implementing restoration actions and reinforcing protection on these important natural protected areas.”

Black-vented Shearwater at sea


Bedolla-Guzmán, Y., Méndez-Sánchez, F., Aguirre-Muñoz, A., Félix-Lizárraga, M., Fabila-Blanco, A., Bravo-Hernández, E., Hernández-Ríos, A., Corrales-Sauceda, M., Aguilar-Vargas, A., Aztorga-Ornelas, A., Solís-Carlos, F., Torres-García, F., Luna-Mendoza, L., Ortiz-Alcaraz, A., Hernández-Montoya, J., Latofski-Robles, M., Rojas-Mayoral, E. & Cárdenas-Tapia, A. 2019.  Recovery and current status of seabirds on the Baja California Pacific Islands, Mexico, following restoration actions.  In: C.R. Veitch, M.N. Clout, A.R. Martin, J.C. Russell & C.J. West (Eds). Island Invasives: Scaling up to Meet the Challenge.  Occasional Paper SSC No. 62. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. pp. 531-538.

With thanks to Federico Méndez, Executive Director, Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, Mexico

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 January 2020

Wandering Albatrosses bounce back (a bit) on Australia’s Macquarie Island

Last austral summer (2018/19) only three eggs were laid by the globally Vulnerable Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans, the lowest recorded in a 25-year monitoring programme, on Australia’s sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island (a World Heritage-status Nature Reserve) by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE).

“This year 10 eggs have been laid, which is the highest in a decade.  In the 2008/09 summer 13 eggs were laid, but since then the average has been less than six.  While several eggs this season were laid by experienced breeders with well-formed partner bonds, there are also a number of newly established breeding pairs and first-time breeders, some of which were chicks from the comparatively bumper 2008/09 season.  The first chicks will begin to hatch in March - we will be very keen to see how many are successful.”

Macca Melanie Wells

Macca Wanderer pair Melanie Wells

Macca Wanderers Melanie Wells

Information and photographs courtesy of DPIPWE Ranger Melanie Wells via the Marine Conservation Program Facebook page.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 January 2020.Three photographers donate use of their albatross images to support ACAP and World Albatross Day

Oikonos talks to ACAP Latest News on its "Winged Ambassadors: Ocean Literacy Through the Eyes of Albatross” programme and World Albatross Day

The mission of the international non-profit organization Oikonos – Ecosystem Knowledge is to study and protect imperilled ecosystems by engaging diverse communities through innovative scientific and artistic collaborations.  Its area of interest is concentrated in the Pacific, where it works with seabirds in Chile, California, Hawaii and Washington.

Michelle Hester is a co-founder of Oikonos and its Executive Director.  She brings over 25 years of research and applied conservation experience throughout the Pacific to the organization.  Her research focuses on island ecology, seabird prey dynamics and habitat restoration with an emphasis on inter-disciplinary approaches.  She has written this month to ACAP Latest News about some of the work of her organization:

“Oikonos works with partners to conserve albatrosses through bycatch, marine debris ingestion and at-sea tracking research in the North Pacific.  We also honour albatrosses as powerful teaching ambassadors.  The classroom programme "Winged Ambassadors: Ocean Literacy Through the Eyes of Albatross" has inspired over 320 000 students in 38 countries.  It is hopeful to learn that anyone can take individual and collective actions to ensure these majestic charismatic birds continue to traverse our oceans and our imaginations.  We support World Albatross Day on 19 June."


Michelle Hester Oikonos leadership 2018 Sue Scott mural

Oikonos' senior management team meets below a Sue Scott artwork made from lighters swallowed by Laysan Albatrosses

Michelle Hester is front row second left; Veronica López is front row, fourth left

Michelle expands on Oikonos’ innovative classroom programme which provides a hands-on experience: “Albatrosses, charismatic and threatened seabirds, are ambassadors for a clean ocean because they traverse vast oceanic regions searching for floating food.  Along their journeys, albatross ingest plastic trash and feed it to their chicks.  As part of the digestive process, the chicks throw up pellets, known as “boluses” to rid themselves of fish bones, squid beaks and alarmingly our plastic trash.  Exploring the contents of albatross boluses has proven to be an impactful, and often life-changing experience for students of all ages because students witness, touch and examine the marine debris that animals are consuming.”  Michelle adds it’s hoped to get a World Albatross Day banner displayed in a classroom with students engaged with the project.










A  bolus containing pieces of plastic (above)

A Black-footed Albatross chick with regurgitated boluses at its feet (right)

Oikonos and its partners carry out necropsies on albatrosses killed by U.S. fisheries, studying such aspects as diet, plastic ingestion and gender-biased mortality (click here).  Working with other collaborators, at-sea GPS tracking of Black -footed Albatrosses Phoebastria nigripes (globally Near Threatened) has been undertaken from Kure Atoll, the westernmost island in the Hawaiian Archipelago.

Students dissect albatross boluses, removing and counting plastic fragments and squid beaks; photograph from Malama Pupukea Waimea with parental permission

A significant link between Oikonos and ACAP is that its Fishery Bycatch and Isla Mocha Programme Manager is Veronica López who has attended ACAP meetings as part of the Chilean Delegation and currently serves as Chair of ACAP’s World Albatross Day Intersessional Group.  Vero is also involved with research and conservation of another ACAP-listed species, the globally Vulnerable Pink-footed Shearwater Ardenna creatopus – a Chilean endemic.  In addition she serves the Grupo de Trabajo de Aves Marinas de Chile (Chilean Seabird Working Group) as its President.  The group made up of scientists advises SUBPESCA (Subsecretaría de Pesca y Acuicultura) on issues related to seabird bycatch.

View Oikonos' 2018/19 Annual Report here.

With thanks to Michelle Hester, Veronica López and Ilana Nimz.


Marrero, M., Hester, M., Hyrenbach, K.D., Michael, P., Adams, J., Keiper, C., Stock, J., Collins, A., Vanderlip, C., Alvarez. T. & Webb, S. 2012.  Ocean literacy through the eyes of albatross.  Current. The Journal of Marine Education 28: 26-30.

Nevins, H.M., Beck, J., Michael, P.E., Hester, M., Peschon, J., Donnelly-Greenan, E. & Fitzgerald, S. 2018.  Demographics of Laysan Phoebastria immutabilis and Black-footed P. nigripes Albatross caught as bycatch in Alaskan groundfish and Hawaiian longline fisheries. Marine Ornithology 46: 187-196.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 January 2020

A Southern Royal Albatross dies in captivity after swallowing a half-litre plastic bottle

A juvenile Southern Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora (globally Vulnerable) found in an emaciated condition on Whirinaki Beach near Napier on New Zealand’s South Island last week has died after two days in captivity despite urgent treatment at the Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North.  Its stomach was found to contain a flattened 500-ml plastic water bottle as well as balloon fragments. (click here).

According to the New Zealand Department of Conservation’s Facebook page the autopsy suggests starvation was the likely cause of death, with the plastic items obstructing the stomach.

Southern Royal Albatross plastic bottle DOC 2

Southern Royal Albatross plastic bottle DOC 1

Southern Royal Albatross balloon fragment DOC













The juvenile albatross in captivity (top), the recovered plastic bottle (left) and balloon fragment (right); photographs from the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

ACAP Latest News has reported on many occasions of balloons and plastic objects swallowed by albatrosses of various species, including by closely related Southern Royal Albatross D. sanfordi chicks at Taiaroa Head, but never such an item as a half-litre plastic water bottle.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 January 2020


BirdLife International’s Albatross Task Force in Chile is fully onboard with World Albatross Day 2020

AWD2020 Banner for trawl in Chile by Diego Segovia

Albatross Task Force - Chile makes a dual-language WAD2020 banner to take to sea, photograph by Diego Segovia

In response to the global conservation crisis being faced by albatrosses, countries across the globe need to step up to the challenge of implementing measures to reduce the impacts by invasive species at their colonies and to reduce fisheries bycatch at sea.  The 13 Parties to the Albatross and Petrel Agreement have encouraged the use of mitigation measures such as bird-scaring lines in longline and trawl fisheries to help protect albatrosses at sea through the implementation of fisheries regulations.  However, fisheries bycatch does not only occur in the jurisdictional waters of ACAP Parties, but also beyond them on the High Seas.

The experience of BirdLife International’s Albatross Task Force (ATF) - the world’s first international team of bycatch experts dedicated to saving the albatross by working on vessels and promoting the use of mitigation measures in fisheries – has highlighted the fact that many fishing fleets remain unaware of the role bycatch mitigation measures can play in saving albatrosses from extinction.  Since 2006 ATF teams have been working directly with small-scale fishers and fishing companies worldwide to raise awareness and demonstrate the effectiveness of mitigation measures to fishing crews and thereby increase compliance with their use.

A Mitigation kit incl. Tamini Tabla during mitigation trials in Chile by ATF ChileMitigation kit including an award-winning ‘Tamini Tabla’ tow device used during mitigation trials in south-central Chilean waters, photograph by ATF-Chile

B Bird scaring line trawl 2019 by ATF Chile

A bird-scaring line gets deployed behind a demersal trawler, south-central Chile, photograph by  ATF-Chile

Volunteers bird scaring line for trawl in Chile by CG Suazo shrunk

CODEFF (Comité Pro-Defensa de la Fauna y Flora, BirdLife International’s partner in Chile) volunteers and observers with a trawler bird-scaring line they have made

Photograph by ATF-Chile

In Chile the ATF has been working with trawl fleets since 2011.  In 2018, an important knowledge transfer took place in the form of an “at-sea classroom” involving both local researchers and deck crews working in the Humboldt Current System.

New regulations for trawl fisheries were subsequently introduced in Chile in 2019, with the aim to reduce their impacts on seabirds (click here).  Moving forward, the ATF will continue to work with fisheries in Chilean waters to navigate towards best practices being applied on board.

As the industry transitions towards more seabird-safe fishing practices in the face of the new regulations, the team’s work is primarily focused around increasing awareness about the correct use of mitigation measures.  Additionally, Chile’s ATF team is using its World Albatross Day 2020 banner – the very first to be taken to sea - to help raise awareness of the plight of albatrosses amongst those working at-sea in Chilean waters.  Gaining recognition among fishers of the need to conserve albatrosses is undoubtedly a powerful sign that the tide of our collective attitude and commitment is changing.

D WAD2020 banner onboard 2019 2 ATF Chile shrunk

ATF-Chile's WAD2020 banner is deployed by crew members aboard the Chilean trawler PAM Bonn in south-central Chile on 20 December 2019

Photograph by Christian Ibieta, ATF-Chile

Have a great 2020 for all and a great WAD2020 across all the seas of the world!

With thanks to Nina da Rocha, Christian Ibieta, Diego Segovia, Association of Industrial Fisheries of Chile (Asociación de Industriales Pesqueros, ASIPES) and the PacificBlu fishing company.

Cristián G. Suazo, Albatross Task Force – Chile, 21 January 2020

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