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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Possession and Marion: two more sub-Antarctic islands support next year’s inaugural World Albatross Day with banners

Two more sub-Antarctic islands have joined ACAP’s “World Albatross Day Banner Challenge”, both in the southern Indian Ocean.  These are France’s Possession Island in the Crozets group, and South Africa’s Marion Island, the larger of the two in the Prince Edward Islands.  Both islands are inhabited by teams from their national Antarctic programmes, TAAF and SANAP, and include marine ornithologists who are studying the islands’ breeding seabirds, including ACAP-listed and globally threatened albatrosses.

Possession and Marion join three other sub-Antarctic islands which had already made and photographed their home-made World Albatross Day banners in the field;   Bird (here) and Gough (here) Islands in the South Atlantic, and France’s Amsterdam Island (here) in the southern Indian.

On Possession the island’s ornithologist kindly organized the ‘WAD Banner’ and display.  He writes to ACAP Latest News: “I’m Florent Lacoste, CEBC-CNRS of Chizé, program 109.  I'm a VSC (Volontariat en Service civique) and I'm here to monitor different species of birds and marine mammals.  We [are] monitoring 14 species in Crozet: albatrosses (x3), petrels (x3), penguins (x4), fur seal (x2), southern elephant seal, killer whale.  We also study alimentary strategies and repartition [distribution] of these marine predators.  My field job is to put GPS, to ring, to take pictures for photo-identification (killer whale), to count penguin colonies, etc. …”.  Florent is clearly busy with this work load so ACAP is especially grateful to him and to his colleagues for contributing to the banner challenge!


From left: Naïs Avargues (rat eradication and ornithologist), Claire Dumont (medical doctor), Florent Lacoste (ornithologist) & Florian Audon (informatician), all of mission 56, pose with a Wandering Albatross chick on Possession Island.  East Island, part of the Crozet Group, is on the horizon


All the members of missions 56 & 57 outside the research station Alfred Faure on Possession Island

A thousand-odd kilometres to the west doctoral student Stefan Schoombie on Marion Island also gave up his time to make a banner with his colleagues.  Short of a suitable cloth an old black-out blind was used instead to give a different look.  Stefan shares his views on World Albatross Day:

“Albatrosses are seldom seen by most, but are all so important to our oceans, never mind being among the most majestic of birds.  World Albatross Day is a great initiative to highlight the conservation crisis that these birds are facing."  Stefan is in his third year on the island where he conducted his MSc research on population dynamics and distribution of Phoebastria albatrosses in 2013/14 (M70), and 2015/16 (M72).  Now a member of the M76 Team, his Ph.D. research is entitled “Remotely sensing motion: the use of multiple technologies to detect fine-scale behaviour of breeding seabirds in a variable environment” through the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at South Africa’s University of Cape Town.  His field research is concentrating on Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans this time.

Elena Reljic & Melissa Schulze of M72 work on Marion’s World Albatross Day Banner


From left: Elena Reljic, Laurie Johnson & Stefan Schoombie pose near breeding Sooty Albatrosses on the cliffs of Ship’s Cove on Marion Island

More southern island banner photographs are expected as the summer breeding seasons get underway.  Following ACAP’s outreach, promises have come from elsewhere in the Southern Ocean: Australia’s Macquarie Island, for several New Zealand sub-Antarctic island groups, from France’s Kerguelen and from researchers based in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  In the Northern Hemisphere it is hoped banners will be displayed on up to three of the USA’s Hawaiian Islands and on two islands belonging to Japan.  These banner displays in island breeding colonies around the world will all help raise awareness of what is intended to be an annual event: World Albatross Day on 19 June.

With thanks to Florian Lacoste and Stefan Schoombie for information and photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 October 2019

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

Trouble with burrowscopes: is the Flesh-footed Shearwater population on Lord Howe Island decreasing or stable?

Nicholas Carlile (Department of Planning and Environment, Hurstville, New South Wales, Australia) and colleagues have published open access a letter in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation commenting on a previous publication in the same journal that considered population changes in globally Near Threatened Flesh-footed Shearwaters Ardenna carnepeis on Australia’s Lord Howe Island.


A pair of Flesh-footed Shearwaters on Lord Howe Island, photograph by Ian Hutton


Carlile, N., Priddel, D., Reid, T. & Fullagar, P. 2019.  Flesh-footed shearwater decline on Lord Howe: rebuttal to Lavers et al. 2019.  Global Ecology and Conservation,

Lavers, J.L., Hutton, I. & Bond, A.C. 2019.  Changes in technology and imperfect detection of nest contents impedes [sic] reliable estimates of population trends in burrowing seabirds.  Global Ecology and Conservation

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 October 2019

Heading south: more records of Spectacled Petrels in Argentine waters

Maximiliano Manuel Hernandez (Grupo Vertebrados, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Argentina) and colleagues have published in the Brazilian Journal of Ornithology on the at-sea distribution of the Spectacled Petrel Procellaria conspicillata.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The Spectacled Petrel Procellaria conspicillata is endemic of the Tristan da Cunha Archipelago, in the South Atlantic Ocean.  However, it is scarcely detected in waters off Argentina beyond its traditional distribution along the southwest Atlantic during the breeding season.  This study compiles distributional records of Spectacled Petrel for the target area (chiefly between 38°S to 46°S and 23°W to 57°W) obtained in situ, from non-systematic observations at sea, between 2015 and 2018 (totaling 4 trips); and by literature review.  Nineteen new sightings of the species are presented. In 46 sightings a total of 65 individuals were recorded chiefly within waters of the Argentine continental shelf (< 200 m) (46%) and oceanic adjacent waters (54%).  The bulk of the sightings (95%) were obtained during the species breeding season.  In addition, we report the southernmost record of the species in oceanic waters for the southwest Atlantic (46°10'S; 57°06'W).”

For an earlier published sighting off Argentina click here.

Spectacled Petrel at sea, photograph by Ross Wanless


Hernandez, M.M., Copello, S., Borowicz, A. & Seco-Pon, J.P. 2019.  Distribution extension of the Spectacled Petrel (Procellaria conspicillata) off the Argentine continental shelf and oceanic adjacent waters.  Brazilian Journal of Ornithology 27(2).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 October 2019

World Albatross Day adopts an official logo

The Albatross and Petrel Agreement will be launching World Albatross Day next year on 19 June, with the theme for 2020 of “Eradicating Island Pests”.

Up until then, ACAP will concentrate on spreading the word via electronic and printed media to establish a level of awareness of the forthcoming inaugural day.  To help with this aim a logo is required.  Seabird researcher Michelle Risi, currently undertaking her second year of field work without a break on Gough Island (and a member of the Agreement’s World Albatross Day Intersessional Group), put ACAP in touch with her old school friend, Geoffry Tyler, a South African commercial artist.  Very kindly, Geoff agreed to design a ‘WAD Logo’ pro bono in his spare time.  An initial draft was circulated to ‘WAD Group’ members for comments, from which after some tweaking, the final version depicted here was produced.

The final design is based on a blue, all-water globe to emphasize that albatrosses are ocean wanderers non pareil.  It also symbolically is not “hemispherecentric” since albatrosses occur and breed in both northern and southern hemispheres which is also why no continents are shown.  The outline of a flying albatross is that used by ACAP on its own logo to provide a recognizable link to the Agreement.

ACAP’s Information Officer met up with Geoff recently in a Cape Town coffee shop to express ACAP’s grateful thanks for the logo design and present him with a coffee-table book on South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands for his good work.

ACAP’s Information Officer (left) thanks Geoffry Tyler for his logo design

Geoff joins cartoonist Marc Parchow of Qual Albatroz in designing artwork for World Albatross Day awareness.

With thanks to Ken Morgan, Michelle Risi & Geoffry Tyler.


Terauds, A., Cooper, J., Chown, S.L. & Ryan, P.G. 2010.  Marion and Prince Edward: Africa's Southern Islands.  Stellenbosch: SUN PReSS.  176 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 October 2019

PhD awarded to Australian marine ornithologist Jaimie Cleeland for her study of Macquarie Island’s albatrosses

Jaimie Cleeland was awarded a PhD last year by the University of Tasmania for her study of four species of ACAP-listed albatrosses (Black-browed Thalassarche melanophris, Grey-headed T. chrystostoma, Light-mantled Phoebetria palpebrata and Wandering Diomedea exulans) that breed on Australia's sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

The abstract of her thesis follows:

“Understanding the ecological relationships between a species and the environment it inhabits is critical to determining species resilience to environmental change and future population viability. By assessing ecological relationships across multiple species greater insights into species intrinsic adaptations and external environmental factors can be revealed, contributing to a broader understanding of community ecology.

This thesis examines the foraging behaviours and environmental drivers of demographic variability of four albatross species from subantarctic Macquarie Island (black-browed Thalassarche melanophris, grey-headed T. chrystostoma, light-mantled Phoebetria palpebrata and wandering albatrosses Diomedea exulans) to understand the ecological, morphological and life history relationships that influence species resilience to ecological shifts.

Three of the four albatross species that inhabit Macquarie Island exist in small populations of less than 80 breeding pairs (for light-mantled albatross the current breeding population estimate is approximately 2 150 pairs). Consistent monitoring since 1994 shows varied population trends among the species; black-browed and light-mantled albatrosses are increasing, while the grey-headed albatross population remains stable and the wandering albatross population is declining. The decline of Macquarie Island’s wandering albatrosses is attributed to long-line fishing operations, however for the remaining species, population and demographic drivers are unidentified. Aside from the threat to survival presented by fisheries, Macquarie Island albatrosses face climate-driven changes to physical oceanic processes including a southerly shift in frontal positions, intensifying wind patterns and greater variability in sea ice dynamics. For albatrosses, such changes are predicted to alter the structuring of prey resources and influence the energetic costs of foraging, ultimately compromising their capacity to survive and reproduce. At the colony, trends in the reproductive output of Macquarie Island albatrosses may be influenced by severe habitat degradation, including vegetation suppression and landslides, caused by the grazing of invasive rabbits.

Specifically, this thesis aims to: 1) identify important at-sea habitats and vulnerability to climate change in the Southern Ocean 2) understand the indirect impacts of onshore change caused by climate change and invasive species on albatross reproductive output 3) quantify the relative contribution of at-sea (climate change and fisheries) and onshore change (habitat degradation and weather) to demographic variability.

1) Habitat models of residence time from tracking data of all four species (n = 47, 1994-2009) were used to quantify the physical features associated with core foraging areas.  During the breeding season, species overlap was high close to the island, extending north into the Tasman Sea. Conversely, nonbreeding albatrosses showed high variability in habitat use across wide ocean expanses but similarly used productive frontal regions and associated mesoscale eddies. Residence times were linked to moderate wind speeds for all species, suggesting that birds use areas where the aerodynamic performance will be greatest, reflecting morphological adaptations.  Given the core foraging areas identified, and the functional and life history adaptations of each species, it is expected that of the four albatross species breeding on Macquarie Island, black-browed albatross may be more vulnerable to future climate-driven changes to wind patterns in the Southern Ocean and potential latitudinal shifts in the Subantarctic Front;

2) To quantify the influence of invasive European rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and extreme weather patterns on the reproductive output of three escarpment nesting albatross species (black-browed, grey-headed, and light-mantled albatrosses) demographic multi-event models were applied to 20 years of mark-recapture data.

High rabbit densities corresponded to reduced breeding propensity of all species, with severe declines observed during periods of highest rabbit numbers. For one species; the black-browed albatross, the combination of extreme rainfall and high rabbit density significantly explained reduced breeding success. These results show the cascading and compounding effects of a successful mammalian invader and extreme weather events on the reproductive output of a community of albatross species, offering compelling support for active management of island ecosystems;

3) The temporal variability in survival, breeding propensity and success was assessed using 20 years of mark-recapture data from four species of Macquarie Island albatrosses. For three species (excluding wandering albatrosses), the influence of oceanic, fisheries and onshore change were investigated using multi-event models to give insight into future population viability. Large-scale climate cycles; the Southern Annular Mode and the El Niño/Southern Oscillation explained significant variability in the survival of all species. For black-browed albatrosses, south-west Atlantic longline and New Zealand trawl fisheries effort described variability in survival.  These findings suggest that managing drivers of negative demographic trends that may be more easily controlled, such as fisheries and habitat degradation, will be a viable option for some species (e.g. black-browed albatrosses) but less effective for others (e.g. light-mantled albatrosses), as opposed to drivers which are not easily mitigated, such as climate change. These findings illustrate the importance of integrating oceanic, fisheries and onshore threatening processes when assessing demographic variability and the development of management policy;

The results of this study suggest that managing sources of negative demographic trends that are more easily controlled, such as fisheries and habitat degradation, as opposed to those which are not; such as climate change, may be a viable option for some species (e.g. blackbrowed albatross) and less effective for others (e.g. light-mantled albatross). Subsequently, this study provides support for evidence-based conservation planning for these populations as well reduces outcome uncertainty of future management actions for other marine predator populations. Furthermore, this study has provided new insights into the ecology of a community of Southern Ocean predators and has broader applications for understanding the responses of multiple sympatric species to multiple environmental stressors.”

Jaimie Cleeland with Light-mantled Albatrosses on Macquarie Island

Click here for details of a publication co-authored by Jaimie Cleeland from her PhD research.

With thanks to Jaimie Cleeland.


Cleeland, J.  2017.  Factors that drive demographic change in a community of albatrosses.  PhD thesis.  Hobart: University of Tasmania.  153 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 October 2019

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