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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“Albatrosses are magnificent and unique birds”. The Convention on Migratory Species’ Acting Executive Secretary, Amy Fraenkel supports Word Albatross Day

In May this year Ms Amy Fraenkel took over the reins as Acting Executive Secretary of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), following the untimely passing of the previous Executive Secretary in January.   It was discussions held at Conferences of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in the 1990s that led the way for the signing of the Albatross and Petrel Agreement (ACAP) in June 2001.  ACAP is one of seven “daughter” Agreements of the CMS Family.  

Fitting then that Ms Fraenkel has written to ACAP Latest News in support of the inauguration of a World Albatross Day on 19 June next year, noting that albatrosses are “flagship species” offered protection under the CMS (where they are all listed on its Appendices).  The Acting Executive Secretary’s statement follows:

“Albatrosses are magnificent and unique birds, and are flagship species protected under the Convention on Migratory Species.  World Albatross Day provides an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of these beautiful birds and the threats that they face – including being caught in fishing operations, plastic pollution, climate change and invasive predator species.”

In response, ACAP's Executive Secretary, Christine Bogle and the Chair of its Advisory Committee, Nathan Walker have expressed their appreciation of the CMS Acting Executive Secretary’s support towards the Agreement's efforts to inaugurate World Albatross Day next June.

Ms Amy Fraenkel stands in front of an ACAP poster at the CMS Headquarters in Bonn, Germany

With thanks to Florian Keil and Barbara Schoenberg, Convention on Migratory Species.

Reference:

Cooper, J., Baker, G.B., Double, M.C., Gales, R., Papworth, W., Tasker, M.L. & Waugh, S.M. 2006. Forum - The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels: rationale, history, progress and the way forward. Marine Ornithology 34: 1-5.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 October 2019

Moving out of harm’s way: an Antipodean Albatross chick gets a helping hand during the “Million Dollar Mouse” eradication project

One member of the “Million Dollar Mouse” field team on New Zealand’s Antipodes Island aimed at eradicating House Mice Mus musculus in 2016 was Keith Springer, with the dual roles of Operational Advisor and Safety Officer.  Keith had previously managed a similar successful eradication exercise on Australia’s Macquarie Island so was well fitted for these roles.

Keith writes to ACAP Latest News with a special memory of his time on the island:

“We were about to change the orientation of the flight line for baiting the Antipodes, due to a wind change, and this chick [of a globally Endangered Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis] on its nest would have been nearly under the helicopter as it hovered to pick up a load of bait.  So we moved the chick and put it into an empty bait pod strewn with tussock - out of the wind and the noise and the proximate human activity.  When we opened the pod at the end of the day to return it to its nest it was fast asleep.”

Keith Springer cradles the downy Antipodean Albatross chick

Photograph by Finlay Cox, Project Planner - Maukahuka - Pest free Auckland Island

More information on the incident comes from the Department of Conservation’s Project Report written after completion of the eradication attempt as precised here: “Bait pods were positioned  … to avoid as far as practicable, impacts on Antipodean Albatross chicks on nests at the time.  Seven albatross chicks were on nests within 50 m of active areas at the bait-loading site, exposed to the greatest amount of low-altitude helicopter activity.  When exposed [to strong rotor wash], chicks stayed sitting on the nest, tucking their head down or under their wing without obvious alarm.  In most cases the response was like that observed during frequent stormy conditions.  On two occasions an albatross chick was uplifted from its nest during loading as the wind direction and limited number of remaining bait pods meant the position of helicopter would have directed severe rotor wash towards it.  The chick was placed in an empty wooden pod lined with tussock and enclosed for up to three hours.  It was asleep when retrieved from the pod on the first occasion and again seemed settled on the second occasion.  It [was] transferred back to its nest each time without any issues and fledged in February 2017.”

All seven chicks within the load site were alive at the completion of operations and six of the seven (86%) fledged successfully in early 2017.  Outside the load site the fledging rate of chicks alive at the time of bait sowing was 90%; this difference is not statistically significant.

Let’s hope the chick survives it juvenile years at sea and in a few years returns to Antipodes to commence breeding on a now mouse-free island, to be identified by the band placed on it as a chick.

Next year the inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June will have the theme “Eradicating Island Pests”.  The success on Antipodes in eradicating House Mice points the way to more eradication efforts that World Albatross Day will attempt to highlight and celebrate.

With thanks to Finlay Cox, Stephen Horn and Keith Springer.

References:

Elliott, G. & Walker, K. 2017.  Antipodean Wandering Albatross Census and Population Study 2017.  Albatross Research.  13 pp.

Horn, S.R. & Hawkins, K. 2017.  Project Report, Antipodes Island Mouse Eradication. Department of Conservation Internal Report DOC-3000055.  88 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 October 2019

Short-tailed Albatrosses not doing badly among decreases in breeding seabirds in Japan

Masayuki Senzaki (Center for Environmental Biology and Ecosystem Studies, Tsukuba City, Japan) and colleagues have published in the journal Bird Conservation International on population changes in breeding seabirds in Japan, including of ACAP-listed albatrosses.

The paper’s summary follows:

“Global seabird populations are in decline, with nearly half of all seabird species currently in an extinction crisis.  Understanding long-term seabird population trends is an essential first step to inform conservation actions.  In this study, we assembled historical breeding records of seabirds throughout the Japanese archipelago and quantified the long-term population trends of 10 major breeding seabird species using a hierarchical Bayesian state-space model.  The model revealed that six species had increasing or no detectable trends (Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus, Leach’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa, Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus, Japanese Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus, Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo, and Rhinoceros Auklet Cerorhinca monocerata).  However, decreasing trends were found not only in nationally threatened species (Common Murre Uria aalge, and Tufted Puffin Fratercula cirrhata) but also common species that are often described as abundant (Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris and Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus).  These declining species have declined to 3–35% of baseline levels over the past 30 years.  This study provides the first evidence of long-term declines in common and widespread seabirds in Japan.”

Short-tailed Albatross on Japan's Torishima, photograph by Hiroshi Hasegawa

Reference:

Senzaki, M., Terui, A., Tomita, N., Sato, F., Fukuda, Y., Kataoka, Y. & Watanuki, Y. 2019.  Long-term declines in common breeding seabirds in Japan.  Bird Conservation International: doi.org/10.1017/S0959270919000352.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 October 2019

In the service of conservation: support for World Albatross Day comes from five wildlife artists

Five artists who have depicted albatrosses in their outputs come together to support next year’s inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June.  Examples of their works and their statements in support of World Albatross Day follow.

Kitty Harvill

 

“I fell in love with Wisdom, the 68-year old Midway Laysan Albatross, while creating illustrations for the book by the same name.  She’s well named, and has much to teach us as conservationists and activists battling for the survival of our planet - patience, perseverance and setting an example by making waves that will carry forward, further than we might ever have dreamed.” - Kitty Harvill, Brazil, Signature Member, Artists for Conservation; Co-founder, ABUN - Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature; illustrator, Wisdom: the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and other Disasters for over 60 Years.

Caren Loebel-Fried

 

“The albatross has long been my muse.  Traveller of vast distances on long, thin, glider wings, passionate dancer, exuberant vocalizer, so committed to a mate and a youngster.  I’ve been lucky to know albatrosses, but their lives are mostly hidden from us humans.  Our lack of awareness makes them even more vulnerable than they already are.  World Albatross Day, a yearly celebration of these incredible creatures, brings the albatross into our lives, and knowledge can spark the desire to protect our natural world.” - Caren Loebel-Fried, Hawaii, USA, artist, naturalist, and author of children's books, including A Perfect Day for an Albatross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gavin Mouldey

"Although albatross don’t frequent the coast where I live and work, seabirds and the sounds of waves are ever present.  Toroa in Māori means ‘albatross’, and is also the given name of the 500th chick hatched at the Taiaroa Head Royal Albatross Colony. The six months spent researching, drawing and painting the book Toroa’s Journey left me in awe of this amazingly resilient individual and his species’ ability to overcome natural challenges. There were also many moments of sadness and frustration over the less natural challenges they face." - Gavin Mouldey, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand, illustrator, Toroa's Journey.

 

Jamie Watts

 

 

“Albatrosses remain under serious threat, although heroic efforts from a few have slowed the impact of fisheries on some populations.  World Albatross Day aims to celebrate the exquisite beauty of these animals, and remind us to work harder to bring them back from the brink.” - Jamie Watts, UK, illustrator, lecturer and expedition guide.

Leigh Wolfaardt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Albatrosses are truly magnificent creatures, an absolute wonder and delight to observe in flight, gliding effortlessly above the waves.  They are a never-ending source of inspiration for my art.  World Albatross Day provides an important opportunity to promote awareness of these wonderful, but highly threatened, denizens of the oceans and skies.” – Leigh Wolfaardt, South Africa, artist and illustrator.

With thanks to Kitty Harvill, Caren Loebel-Fried, Jamie Watts and Leigh Wolfaardt.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 October 2019

ACAP Breeding Site No. 92. Bleaker Island, Southern Giant Petrel home in the South Atlantic, has its Norway Rats poisoned

The Bleaker Island Group lies close off the south-eastern coast of East Falkland (Islas Malvinas)*.  The low-lying islands are privately owned; the long, narrow main island is run as a farm and is also visited by day and overnight tourists.

Accommodation at the settlement on Bleaker Island

 

The breeding population of Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus based on near-annual chick counts received from the island's owner by Falklands Conservation increased irregularly from 150 in 2001/02 to a peak of over 300 in 2014/15, subsequently dropping annually to 206 in 2017/18.  The most recent count, for  the 2018/19 breeding season, was 265 chicks.  Information from Nick Rendell, Bleaker Island Farm owner, follows: "The last two year’s cohort[s] of chicks have been hit by untimely late summer storms.  We observed notable numbers of dead SGP chicks in late summer 2017 and 2018 after unusually strong storm events".

"The distribution of breeding pairs is right along the western coast of Bleaker Island from the very north end to the very south end.  There are several notable clusters of up to 40 breeding pairs – particularly in the south end camps.  The SGP distribution seems to be expanding – with some small groups of breeding pairs found on the east coast of the north end now.  They are slowly breeding closer to the settlement – for instance SGPs started breeding on Gull Point for the first time 2 seasons ago."

Sooty Shearwaters Ardenna grisea and Grey-backed Storm Petrels Garrodia nereis (suspected) also breed within the group, along with three penguin species and other birds.

Southern Giant Petrel Chick on Bleaker Island

A ground-based operation that deployed some 7800 kg of cereal-based bait containing the poison Brodifacoum in May this year has hopefully cleared the island of the introduced Norway Rat Rattus norvegicus, the only pest mammal present.  The bait was deployed on the main island (2070 ha), as well as by hand on four small surrounding islands known to be infested with rats (First, Second, Third and Ghost) totalling 11 ha.  Three other small islands in the group were found to be rat free and so were not treated.  To avoid any secondary poisoning by scavenging on dead or dying rats, the baiting exercise was conducted outside the Southern Giant Petrel’s breeding season when fewer birds are present on the island.

 

Sally Poncet drives out the bait, photograph by Traighana Smith

 “Using poisoned bait to eradicate rats on an island with livestock (roughly 1000 sheep and 60 cattle) requires careful planning to ensure that the livestock does not have access to the bait.  To this end, the island's 25 camps and paddocks were grouped together in five separate alternating blocks: two blocks made up of paddocks which would continue to be grazed after the bait was set, and three blocks comprising the paddocks that would remain ungrazed.”

In the blocks to be grazed, bait was placed in 880 bait stations made of 500-mm lengths of plastic pipe to prevent livestock access.  Ungrazed blocks were treated by hand broadcasting of bait.

Plastic-pipe bait station, photograph by Traighana Smith

The outcome of the eradication effort will not become known until May 2021, when the final check for rat sign will take place. Up  to the time of writing there have been no signs of rats.  Nick writes: "We have chew sticks and monitoring stations out and have been checking coast closely and nothing yet.  So looking good so far.  We plan to get a detector dog out in October for an initial check which will be useful."  A biosecurity plan to minimise the risk of re-invasion by rats has been formulated.  The Bleaker Island rat eradication project followed on from a 2014 feasibility study.  It was co-ordinated by Nick Rendell, Bleaker Island Farm and Sally Poncet, Island LandCare.

The Bleaker Island Group has been identified as an Important Bird Area due to its large colonies of cormorants by BirdLife International.  The northern part of the main island was designated a National Nature Reserve in 1970.

Big Pond, Bleaker Island

With thanks to Sally Poncet, Nick Rendell, Traighana Smith, Andrew Stanworth and Megan Tierney

References:

Anon. 2019. Wait begins as 7,800 kg of bait set in Bleaker rat eradication.  Penguin News 28 June 2019.  pp. 8-9.

BirdLife International 2019.  Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bleaker Island Group.

Brown, D. & Poncet, S. 2004.  Feasibility Study Report for the Potential Eradication of Norway Rats on Bleaker Island, Falkland Islands.  Unpubl. Report.  81 pp.

Crofts, S. & Stanworth, A. 2018.  Falkland Islands Seabird Monitoring Programme ‐ Annual Report 2017/2018 (SMP25).  Stanley: Falklands Conservation.  44 pp.

Falkland Conservation 2006.  Important Bird Areas of the Falkland Islands.  Stanley: Falklands Conservation.  160 pp.

Patterson, D.L., Woehler, E.J., Croxall, J.P., Cooper, J., Poncet, S., Hunter, S. & Fraser, W.R. 2008.  Breeding distribution and population status of the Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli and Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus.  Marine Ornithology 36: 115-124.

Poncet, S. & Passfield, K. 2012.  Surveys of Islands in the Bleaker Island Group: First, Second, Third, Halt, North Point, Ghost and Sandy Bay Islands.  Stanley: Beaver Island LandCare.  36 pp.

Reid, T.A. & Huin, N. 2008.  Census of the Southern Giant Petrel population of the Falkland Islands 2004/2005.  Bird Conservation International 18: 118-128.

Stanworth, A. & Crofts, S. 2017.  Population Status and Trends of Southern Giant Petrels (Macronectes giganteus) in the Falkland Islands.  Revised Version February 2017.  Stanley: Falklands Conservation.  20 pp.

Summers, D. 2001.  A Visitor’s Guide to the Falkland IslandsLondon: Falklands Conservation.  109 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 September 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.

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