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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Wildlife Management International works to conserve ACAP-listed Black Petrels and Chatham Albatrosses – and supports World Albatross Day

Wildlife Management International 

New Zealand-based Wildlife Management International Limited (WMIL) is an environmental consultancy dedicated to research and nature conservation.  It has been monitoring, protecting and managing natural ecosystems both in New Zealand and around the world for over 30 years.  Founded in 1992 by the late Brian Bell QSM, the consultancy remains a family business, now headed by Brian’s offspring, Mike Bell (Managing Director) and Elizabeth (Biz) Bell (Senior Ecologist).

ACAP Latest News reached out to Biz and Mike to hear more about their conservation work with two ACAP-listed species, both endemic to New Zealand: the globally Vulnerable Chatham Albatross Thalassarche eremita and the globally Vulnerable Black Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni – and to gain the WMIL’s support for this year’s inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June.

Biz Black Petrel banding shrunk

Biz Bell (right) bands a Black Petrel, photograph by Wildlife Management International

Mike and Biz have written in reply: “Every year, our team of passionate ecologists spend months on islands monitoring ACAP-listed species such as Chatham Albatross and Black Petrel, as well as Flesh-footed Shearwater and other seabirds.  The Takoketai/Black Petrel project that WMIL has been undertaking for Ngati Rehua, Department of Conservation and Ministry for Primary Industries since 1995 is one of the longest-running seabird projects in New Zealand.  Along with the Chatham Island Taiko Trust, the Chatham Albatross translocation project was ground-breaking as the first albatross transfer in New Zealand and the second in the world.  Having directed over 20 invasive species eradications on islands around the world to protect and enhance seabird, land bird and reptile populations, WMIL recognises that World Albatross Day is a fantastic way to raise the profile of these iconic species and the importance of protecting their homes by eradicating island pests.”

Mike Bell Chatham feeding shrunk

Mike Bell (right) helps feed a translocated Chatham Albatross chick a large squid, photograph by Wildlife Management International

Mike Bell White capped Albatross shrunk

Mike Bell holds a White-capped Abatross Thalassarche steadi for banding on Motuhara, photograph by Mark Fraser

With thanks to Biz and Mike Bell, Wildlife Management International.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 May 2020

Lead levels show historical declines in Flesh-footed Shearwaters

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Alex Bond (Natural History Museum, Tring, UK) and Jenn Lavers have assessed historical changes in cadmium, mercury, and lead levels in feathers of  Flesh-footed Shearwaters Ardenna carneipes, a potential candidate for ACAP listing, in the journal Environmental Pollution.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Contamination of diverse environments and wild species by some contaminants is projected to continue and increase in coming decades. In the marine environment, large volumes of data to assess how concentrations have changed over time can be gathered from indicator species such as seabirds, including through sampling feathers from archival collections and museums. As apex predators, Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Ardenna carneipes) are subject to high concentrations of bioaccumulative and biomagnifying contaminants, and reflect the health of their local marine environment. We analysed Flesh-footed Shearwater feathers from Australia from museum specimens and live birds collected between 1900 and 2011 and assessed temporal trends in three trace elements of toxicological concern: cadmium, mercury, and lead. Concentrations of cadmium increased by 1.5% per year (95% CI: +0.6, +3.0), while mercury was unchanged through the time series (−0.3% per year; 05% CI: -2.1, +1.5), and lead decreased markedly (−2.1% per year, 95% CI: -3.2, −1.0). A reduction in birds’ trophic position through the 20th century, and decreased atmospheric emissions were the likely driving factors for mercury and lead, respectively. By combining archival material from museum specimens with contemporary samples, we have been able to further elucidate the potential threats posed to these apex predators by metal contamination.”

Flesh footed Shearwater 2 Kirk Zufelt

Flesh-footed Shearwater at sea, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

Reference:
Bond, A.L. & Lavers, J.L. 2020. Biological archives reveal contrasting patterns in trace element concentrations in pelagic seabird feathers over more than a century. Environmental Pollution doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2020.114631.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 May 2020

The Hawaii Audubon Society joins other Hawaiian NGOs in supporting World Albatross Day

Hawaii Audubon Society

A number of environmental NGOs based in the USA’s Hawaiian Islands actively work towards improving the conservation status of the islands’ breeding Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes and Laysan P. immutabilis Albatrosses.  Two of these, Friends of Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge (FoHI) and Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (FOMA) direct their conservation efforts to the North-western Hawaiian Islands, where the vast majority of the Hawaiian albatrosses breed.  Both FoHI and FOMA have offered their support to the inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June this year.

ACAP Latest News reached out to Wendy Johnson, Executive Director of the Hawaii Audubon Society (HAS) to gain her NGO’s support for World Albatross Day 2020.  Established in 1939, the Hawaii Audubon Society is a non-profit membership organization that fosters community values to protect and restore native wildlife and ecosystems and conserve natural resources through education, science and advocacy in Hawaii and the Pacific.  The society publishes a journal, ‘Elepaio, six times a year containing peer-reviewed scientific articles and updates on environmental issues.  From 2007 the Hawaii Audubon Society has actively managed the small Freeman Seabird Preserve on Oahu, home to a growing breeding colony of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters or 'uau kani Ardenna pacifica.

Wendy Johnson requested HAS Board Member Susan Scott to respond with the NGO’s support for WAD2020.  Susan Scott has written to ACAP Latest News on behalf of HAS: “Hawaii’s albatross populations have suffered staggering losses over the centuries, yet our three Northern Hemisphere species continue to nest in the Hawaiian Archipelago.  World Albatross Day is a fine way to share with the world the marvel of these magnificent birds’ continued survival.”

Susan continues “I work as a volunteer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, most recently counting Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses at Midway Atoll.  The count ending in January 2020 shows the two species numbering within their normal ranges”.

View "The Miracle of Midway: a Million Albatrosses and Counting" - an illustrated lecture by Susan Scott on behalf of the Hawaiian Audubon Society.


Susan Scott with a trusting Laysan Albatross on Midway Atoll

 Midway Atoll Eastern Island Albatross Census 2020 2 shrunk

The 2019/20 season all-volunteer albatross count team on Midway Atoll’s Eastern Island. Artist Caren Loebel-Fried holds the World Albatross Day sign she made  for ACAP Latest News

Cigarette lighters from Midways albatross nests Susan Scott shrunk

Susan Scott describes her own artwork as “made from cigarette lighters collected by Laysan Albatrosses at sea and regurgitated by their chicks.

The piece now hangs at the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center dormitory housing international students”

With thanks to Wendy Johnson and Susan Scott, Hawaii Audubon Society.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 May 2020

Plastic ingestion and trace element burden in Short-tailed Shearwaters not related?

Short tailed Shearwater off Noth Cape NZ Kirk Zufelt s 

Short-tailed Shearwater at sea, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

Peter Puskic (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia) and colleagues have published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on the relationship between ingested plastic and trace elements in Short-tailed Shearwaters Ardenna tenuirostris.

The paper's abstract follows:

“Pollution of marine environments is concerning for complex trophic systems.  Two anthropogenic stresses associated with marine pollution are the introduction of marine plastic and their associated chemicals (e.g., trace elements) which, when ingested, may cause harm to wildlife.  Here we explore the relationship between plastic ingestion and trace element burden in the breast muscle of Short-tailed Shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris).  We found no relationship between the amount of plastic ingested and trace element concentration in the birds' tissues.  Though the mass and number of plastic items ingested by birds during 1969–2017 did not change significantly, trace element concentrations of some elements (Cu, Zn, As, Rb, Sr and Cd), appeared to have increased in birds sampled in 2017 compared to limited data from prior studies. We encourage policy which considers the data gleaned from this sentinel species to monitor the anthropogenic alteration of the marine environment.”

Reference:

Puskic, P.S., Lavers, J.L., Adams, L.R, .Bond, A.L. 2020Ingested plastic and trace element concentrations in Short-tailed Shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris).  Marine Pollution Bulletin 155.  doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2020.111143.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 May 2020

Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada, BirdLife national partner, welcomes World Albatross Day 2020

Birds Canada

Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada is one of two BirdLife national partners in that country.  It joins a growing number of BirdLife national partners or affiliates in countries which work actively within the Agreement, either as Parties or as range states for listed species that regularly attend meetings, that have offered their support for the inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June.

Founded in 1960, Birds Canada is a non-profit, charitable organization built on the contributions of 7500 members and nearly 60 000 volunteer citizen scientists.  Its mission is to conserve wild birds through sound science, on-the-ground actions, innovative partnerships, public engagement and science-based advocacy.

ACAP Latest News approached Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada through Steven Price, President, and Pete Davidson, Senior Conservation Advisor who oversees the society’s monitoring and conservation programmes across the country, requesting the society’s support for ‘WAD2020’.  In response, David Bradley, Birds Canada’s Director of its British Columbia Program (and who leads on collaborative work in Pacific Canada on invasive mammal predators of seabirds) writes:

“Many Canadians will not know this, but three albatross species regularly grace the waters of Pacific Canada.  Birds Canada welcomes World Albatross Day to raise awareness of the plight of these magnificent sentinels of the high seas, and their smaller cousins the petrels and shearwaters.  Out of sight to most people, they are key indicators of the health of our oceans and remote islands, they symbolize sustainable fisheries, and many are unfortunately threatened with extinction.”

David Bradley Birds Canada

David Bradley, Director, British Columbia Program, Birds Canada

“Peu de Canadiens le savent: trois espèces d’albatros fréquentent régulièrement nos eaux au large de la côte ouest. Oiseaux Canada souligne la Journée mondiale des albatros, qui a pour but de sensibiliser la population à la situation désespérée de ces magnifiques sentinelles des hautes mers et de leurs cousins plus petits, les pétrels et les puffins. Ces oiseaux que la grande majorité des gens n’ont jamais vus sont des indicateurs clés de l’état des océans et des îles isolées. Ils symbolisent la pêche durable. Malheureusement, bon nombre d’espèces sont menacées de disparition.”

Canada is not a Party to ACAP, but it has attended practically all the Agreement's meetings as an observer and active participant in deliberations since close to the onset of the Agreement.  Ken Morgan, Pelagic Seabird Biologist, Environment and Climate Change Canada, is a long-standing member of ACAP’s Seabird Bycatch and Population & Conservation Status Groups Working Groups and has regularly attended Sessions of the Meeting of the Parties and of its Advisory Committee.

Four ACAP-listed species interact, or have the potential to interact, as non-breeding visitors with Canadian Pacific fisheries; these are Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes, Laysan P. immutabilis and Vulnerable Short-tailed P. albatrus Albatrosses and Vulnerable Pink-footed Shearwaters Ardenna creatopus.

 Black footed Albatross Colleen Laird

Black-footed Albatross in flight, by ABUN artist, Colleen Laird

Canada has produced management or equivalent plans for three of these species, aimed at mitigating mortality from being caught on longline hooks (see references below).

With thanks to David Bradley, Pete Davidson, Colleen Laird, Ken Morgan and Steven Price.

References:

Environment Canada. 2008.  Recovery Strategy for the Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) and the Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) in Canada.  Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series.  Ottawa: Environment Canada.  vii + 46 pp.

Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2017.  Management Plan for the Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) in Canada.  Species at Risk Act Management Plan Series.  Ottawa: Environment and Climate Change Canada. iv + 30 pp. [in French here]

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 April 2020

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