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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Island Conservation will support World Albatross Day by helping eradicate House Mice on Gough and Midway Islands this year

The mission of the international non-profit organization Island Conservation is to prevent extinctions by removing invasive species from islands.  It works with local communities, government management agencies and conservation organizations on islands with the greatest potential for preventing the extinction of globally threatened species.  “We develop comprehensive and humane plans for the removal of invasive species, implement the removal of invasive species; and conduct research to better understand how invasive species removal changes and benefits island ecosystems and to inform future conservation action”.

Island Conservation

Island Conservation is headquartered in the United States with field offices in Australia, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.  Since its founding in 1994 Island Conservation and its partners have successfully restored 64 islands worldwide, benefiting 1195 populations of 487 species and subspecies (click here).

Gregg Howald, Island Conservation’s Director of Global and External Affairs has written to ACAP Latest News:

“We are proud to be celebrating World Albatross Day while implementing projects this year to remove invasive House Mice from Midway and Gough Islands in partnership with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.  These projects will help restore the breeding habitat of six species of albatrosses.  Restoration of breeding habitat through removal of invasive predators is a proven conservation tool that can have lasting and permanent benefits for breeding marine birds, including albatrosses.  The eradication of invasive species from islands removes one of the many pressures these birds face, and we are proud to be contributing to the successes of these globally significant programmes around the world.”

Gregg Howald

Gregg Howald, Island Conservation’s Director of Global and External Affairs

This year ACAP has chosen the overall theme “Eradicating Island Pests” to mark the inauguration of World Albatross Day on 19 June this year.  By then the eradication efforts on both Gough and Midway will either be underway or in the last stages of planning.  Although their success will not be immediately known, all who celebrate World Albatross Day 2020 with ACAP will surely be wishing the two field teams the very best of luck and an end to the islands’ ‘killer’ mice.

With thanks to Emily Heber & Gregg Howald, Island Conservation.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 January 2020

Midway’s Short-tailed Albatrosses, George and Geraldine, hatch their latest egg

George and Geraldine, the globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross or ‘Golden Gooney’ Phoebastria albatrus solitary pair on Midway Atoll’s Sand Island, hatched their latest egg on 2 January.  George had taken up the final incubation shift from Geraldine just four days earlier on 29 December; the egg is reported as being laid on 28 October (click here).  Both birds were first seen in the current breeding season on the same day of 23 October last year.  ACAP Latest News assumes they had arrived unnoticed earlier than this to allow for mating and the usual (for procellariiforms) egg-making ‘honeymoon’ trip or pre-laying exodus of around 10 days or more to sea by the female.

Short tailed Albatross Midway 

Short tailed Albatross Midway V. Ternisian.2

George with its recently hatched chick, photographs by V. Ternisian

Read what is known of George and Geraldine’s history and previous breeding attempts (they successfully fledged their first chick in the previous 2018/19 season) here.  Intriguing to note the synchrony of breeding between the two seasons, in 2018/19 their egg hatched on 3 January (although it should be noted hatching can be a lengthy process lasting more than a day, so the exact day of the chick finally leaving the shell may be difficult to record).

Meanwhile, Midway's other famous pair, 69-something Wisdom and mate Akeakamai, the Laysan Albatrosses P. immutabilis, are taking a 'gap year', having not laid an egg this season after being seen back together in Sand Island last November (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 January 2020

BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force has released its 2018/19 Annual Report

The Albatross Task Force is an international team of seabird bycatch mitigation experts led by BirdLife International and its UK’s partner, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).  The task force released its 2018/19 annual report in October last year.  In the absence of a summary in the document, information follows from a media release.

 “It has been yet another eventful year for our Albatross Task Force (ATF) teams and we have lots of exciting news to share with you!  In the attached ATF annual progress report you can read all about our achievements in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Namibia and South Africa between April 2018-March 2019.

All over the world, our ATF teams are focusing ever more on ensuring that national government agencies are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to help protect albatrosses at sea and sustain fleet-wide reductions into the future.  In Namibia, the ATF has trained 75% of national fisheries observers and the data they have been collecting suggest that bycatch rates have dropped by over 90% in the demersal longline fleet since the introduction of regulations in 2015!  Alongside similar reductions achieved in the South African hake trawl fleet, big leaps have clearly been made for albatrosses and petrels in southern Africa.  Nonetheless, mitigation compliance remains a challenge and our teams in Brazil, Chile and South Africa have been working closely with fishers to test and develop new mitigation measures that are better suited to their needs.

The past year has also seen an unprecedented collaboration take place between our ATF teams in the Southern Cone, with instructors from Argentina sharing their experience of mitigating seabird bycatch on a government trawl research vessel in Chile.  This has led to an increased commitment to seabird conservation by Chile’s government.  This is of great importance as trawl fleets in Chile have to date been able to operate in the absence of any seabird bycatch mitigation measures.  Many lessons can be learned from neighbouring Argentina, where legislation requiring the use of bird-scaring lines came into force in May 2018.  Our ATF teams therefore aim to continue to facilitate this transnational cooperation moving forward.”

Interested persons can support the Albatross Task Force here

With thanks to Nina da Rocha, Albatross Task Force Project Officer

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 January 2010

A WAD2020 banner gets to Grey-headed Albatross Ridge on Marion Island

Back in October last year doctoral student Stefan Schoombie with fellow researchers on South Africa’s Marion Island in the southern Indian Ocean took their home-made World Albatross Day banner to Ship’s Cove to display next to some breeding Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetria fusca (click here).

Recently Stefan with his wife Janine walked from the research station where they stay to Grey-headed Albatross Ridge in the south of the island.  From my own experience this trek can take up to a full day, over mostly difficult and hilly terrain – and often in poor weather.  Carrying their original WAD2020 banner made from a black-out curtain and its poles all the way is not going to be appealing.  No matter, there is a field hut next to the ridge and the Schoombies used what materials were available there to make a banner to display next to a colony of Grey-headed Albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma on the ridge.

Marion GHA2.Stefan SchoombieMarion GHA2.Stefan Schoombie

Making the WAD2020 banner in the field hut at Grey-headed Albatross Ridge

Marion GHA4.Stefan Schoombie

Stefan and Janine Schoombie display their new World Albatross Day banner next to a small group of breeding Grey-headed Albatrosses on Marion Island

Immediately below the ridge is the partially vegetated tumbled lava of Santa Rosa Valley.  Grey-headed Albatrosses, including fledglings, occasionally crash land in the lava field and may not then be able to fly out, leading to their death.  While Stefan is studying mainly Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans through the University of Cape Town for his PhD, Janine’s research is with the University of Pretoria’s Department of Plant and Soil Science.  She writes to ACAP Latest News: “The project we are working on looks at the effect of wind on the terrestrial ecology of the island.  My research on the Grey-headed Albatrosses focuses on finding out how the wind influences their flight capabilities around Grey-headed Albatross Ridge and how changes in wind patterns (as a consequence of climate change) might affect them in the future.”  Best wishes for her and Stefan’s research!

Grey Headed Albatross Hut Black browed Albatross Michelle Jones

The field hut from Grey-headed Albatross Ridge on Marion Island. The tumbled black lava below it can trap fledging abatrosses.

  The Black-browed Albatross depicted is a regular vagant among the Grey-headed Albatrosses (click here). Photograph by Michelle Risi

With thanks to Janine and Stefan Schoombie.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 January 2019

Taiaroa Head’s Northern Royal Albatrosses finish laying and get their Royal Cam back

Thirty-six eggs were laid in the current (2019/20) breeding season of globally Endangered Northern Royal Albatrosses Diomedea sanfordi in New Zealand’s only mainland albatross colony of Taiaroa Head, following a final count by Department of Conservation (DOC) staff late last year.  This is less than the previous season’s 51-egg record.

“However, that [record] was a result of re-breeding by the parents of failed eggs the previous season when extreme weather conditions resulted in a higher-than-usual number of failed nests.  That season only 13 chicks fledged compared with 26 and 23 chicks over the previous two years.”  The latest egg count of 36 is thus considered to “show a return to normal after two years of extremes”.

DOC has also reinstalled its live-streaming ‘Royal Cam’: “The season of 2019/2020 has seen the Royal Cam once again move up the hill.  Now at Top Flat Track our new pair is OGK (banded Orange, Green, Black) a 21-year old male and YRK (banded Yellow, Red, Black) a 25-year old female.  YRK laid the egg on 14 November 2019.  This season the live stream has partnered with Cornell Bird Lab.  There are some new features including a trial of night vision and the ability to pan the camera at the ranger’s discretion.”

Watch the Royal Cam here.

Northern Royal Albatross Taiaroa Head egg Nov2016

A colour-banded Northern Royal Albatross stands over it egg on Taiaroa Head

With thanks to Sharyn Broni, Ranger, Biodiversity, New Zealand Department of Conservation.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 January 2020

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