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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Plenty buds: 1.8 million pairs of Great Shearwaters make Nightingale Island home

Ben Dilley (FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa and colleagues have published in the open-access journal Marine Ornithology on a burrowing petrel survey of the Nightingale Island group in the South Atlantic.  Two islets are recommended for nature reserve status.

Islets off Nightingale Island: Middle and Stoltenhoff behind

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Nightingale is a group of three small, uninhabited islands in the central South Atlantic Ocean. The islands are free of introduced mammals and are largely pristine, supporting two endemic land birds as well as globally important populations of several species of seabirds. Seven species of burrow-nesting petrels are known to breed on the islands, including roughly 40 % of the world's population of Great Shearwaters Ardenna gravis. We estimated burrow densities by systematically searching for their burrows in 5×5-m quadrats across the main island in the austral summer of 2015. A total of 1789 petrel burrows fell within the 75 sample quadrats with an average density of 0.95 burrows∙m-2, suggesting that upwards of four million petrels breed on the main island. Burrow densities and occupancy rates were extrapolated by species for each habitat type to generate population estimates: Great Shearwaters 2.34 million burrows (1.82 million pairs, 95 % CI 1.67-1.97 million); Broad-billed Prions Pachyptila vittata a minimum of 83 000 burrows (with many more pairs breeding in rock crevices, total estimate 100 000-500 000 pairs), White-faced Storm Petrels Pelagodroma marina 17 800 burrows (11 700 pairs, 95 % CI 4 700-16 600), Soft-plumaged Petrels Pterodroma mollis 12 100 burrows (estimated 8 000-10 000 pairs), Fregetta Storm Petrels F. grallaria/tropica 6 600 burrows (estimated 5 000 pairs), Common Diving Petrels Pelecanoides urinatrix 3 900 burrows (estimated 5 000 pairs), and Subantarctic Shearwaters Puffinus elegans an estimated 1 000 pairs. Although Great Shearwater burrow densities and occupancies were lowest in the areas historically used for exploitation of chicks and eggs (ongoing, but now monitored), these results suggest the great shearwater population on Nightingale Island has remained relatively stable since the first estimates in the 1950s.”

 

Great Shearwaters at sea

Reference:

Dilley, B.J., Davies, D., Mitham, A., Glass, T., Repetto, J., Swain, G. & Ryan, P.G. 2019.  Population estimates of burrow-nesting petrels breeding at the Nightingale Island group, Tristan da Cunha Archipelago.  Marine Ornithology 47: 267-275.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 January 2020

Three photographers donate use of their albatross images to support ACAP and World Albatross Day

The Albatross and Petrel Agreement keeps on file photographs of its 31 listed species to illustrate articles posted to its website and Facebook page and for use in posters, booklets and other materials that are produced from time to time. The majority of these photos has come from supporters of the Agreement who have generously allowed use of their work without charge.

With the build up to the inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June this year, ACAP Latest News has found itself in need of new and fresh photos of the world’s 22 species of albatrosses. A special requirement has been making over a hundred of such photos available for the current collaboration with ABUN (Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature) so that participating artists can gain inspiration for their work

Three photographers have stepped up to help in the last few days. Michelle Risi is a biologist currently conducting monitoring research on albatrosses and other seabirds on Gough Island with the Gough Island Restoration Programme of the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. She has contributed a suite of photos of the six albatross species that breed on Gough and Marion Islands. Michelle has written to ACAP Latest News on her motivation to help: “Working with albatrosses has changed my life, so now I am working to change theirs. I hope World Albatross Day can make people feel for albatrosses the same way they do for penguins. They are equally deserving of our awe and attention and are in desperate need of action as they face a conservation crisis.” Michelle made the original suggestion to ACAP to inaugurate a World Albatross Day. She is also a member of the Agreement’s World Albatross Day Intesessional Group.

Tristan.9Michelle Risi on Gough Island beside a Tristan Albatross chick with her WAD2020 banner

Sooty Albatross chick Michelle Risi

Sooty Albatross chick, photograph by Michelle Risi

Wieteke Holthuijzen, a Board Director of the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (FOMA), has contributed photos of the three albatross species that breed on Midway Atoll in the North Pacific. She is currently an MSc student with Northern Illinois University studying Midway’s introduced House Mice Mus musculus that have taken to attacking the island’s albatrosses. The mice are due to be eradicated later this year. Her study concentrates on the mice’s diets and their broader ecological impacts on the atoll, which fits well with WAD2020’s theme of Eradicating Island Pests”.

Wieteke Holzjhausen shrunk

Wieteke bands a Laysan Albatross on Sand Island, Midway Atoll

Wieteke Holzjhausen Laysan

A Laysan Albatross tends its downy chick, photograph by Wieteke Holthuijzen

 Laurie Johnson South Georgia shrunk

Laurie on a South Atlantic island with a King Penguin colony in the background

The most recent contribution has come from USA-based Laurie Smaglick Johnson who been engaged in conservation photography for 25 years. She has photographed albatrosses in both hemispheres; her donated portfolio of stunning images covers 12 species, including a number of interesting ‘action shots’ taken both on land and at sea. Laurie, now retired, describes herself as an electrical engineer and corporate executive by education and career experience, a scientist by thought process, and a conservationist by heart. She tells ALN she has published a photographic book entitled Silent Conversations with Eastern Wood Warblers. Maybe one on albatrosses should follow?

AlbatrossWaved084

A Waved Albatross pair interact on Española Island, Galapagos; photograph by Laurie Smaglick Johnson

ACAP is always ready to converse with wildlife photographers who feel, like Michelle, Wieteke and Laurie, that they would like to support the conservation of albatrosses and petrels with their work. The Agreement will inform anyone interested in helping of the notable gaps in ACAP’s growing collection of photographs.

With grateful thanks to Wieteke Holthuijzen, Laurie Smaglick Johnson and Michelle Risi, and to all the photographers who have allowed use of their photographs by ACAP in the last two decades.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 January 2020

Ecuador hosts an international workshop on its endemic Galapagos Petrel

The First International Meeting for the Conservation of the Galápagos Petrel (Primera Reunión Internacional para la Conservación del Petrel de Galápagos) was held in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos over 5-7 November 2019.  The purpose of this meeting was to bring together researchers, governmental agencies and non-profit groups with the shared interest of coordinating future conservation actions for Ecuador’s endemic petrel and to draft an action plan.

The Critically Endangered Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia has been listed by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in Annex 1 since 1979 and has been proposed in the past for listing by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).  It faces a multitude of threats on all five known breeding islands in the Galapagos, including predation pressure from feral cats, dogs and pigs and non-native rodents and collisions with utility lines and wind turbines.

Galapagos Petrel at sea, photograph by Eric Vanderwerf

The workshop heard updates from the Galapagos National Park, the primary government agency with responsibility for the petrel’s management as well as from members of the research community and national and international conservation organizations.  ACAP was represented by its Executive Secretary, Christine Bogle and Vice-Chair of its Advisory Committee, Tatiana Neves, from Brazil’s Projeto Albatroz, who contributed to the ‘brainstorming’ and presented information about the Agreement, its activities and its products.

Galapagos Petrel Workshop.3 shrunk

Some discussion at the meeting centred on whether the opportunity should be taken at the next ACAP Advisory Committee meeting (AC12) due to be held in Ecuador later this year to once again present a case for the inclusion of this species on ACAP's Annex 1, through presenting  more information, especially related to at-sea threats. A small group was established to consider this issue further and to decide whether to pursue re-nomination of the Galápagos Petrel as an ACAP-listed species.

 

Workshop attendees (left); Christine and Tatiana make their presentation (right)

 

Other matters discussed by the meeting included:

Recognizing the previous work done to understand and to protect the species;
Presenting information on geographical distribution at sea;
Sharing understanding of current status and threats;
Sharing results of new technology – acoustic surveys, automatic rodent traps;
Projecting future conservation scenarios;
Sharing community outreach activities;
Identifying key research needs to support conservation decision-making; and
Identifying and prioritizing conservation actions.

The meeting report is currently being finalized; once available ACAP Latest News will report on its main conclusions.

With thanks to Sebastian Cruz, Tatiana Neves, Hannah Nevins & Carolina Proaño.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 January 2020

New Zealand’s Forest & Bird will be celebrating this year’s inauguration of World Albatross Day

Established in 1923, and now with 80 000 members, Forest & Bird is considered New Zealand’s leading independent conservation organisation; it is also the national partner of BirdLife InternationalACAP Latest News got in touch to learn more.

Forest Bird Facebook

In reply, Sue Maturin, Forest & Bird’s Southern Regional Conservation Manager, writes that she lives in Dunedin, just an hour from Taiaroa Head, the only mainland breeding colony of the globally Endangered and nationally Naturally Uncommon Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi – the world’s largest seabird.

Northern Noyal Albatrosses David Brooks shrunk

Two Northern Royal Albatrosses interact on the sea surface, photograph by David Brooks

“Sometimes when we are kayaking at sea just beyond their clifftop colony a pair of these magnificent creatures will land close to our small kayaks, and if we are lucky, they will cackle to each other.  My heart soars when I watch these graceful giants elegantly skimming the waves, I marvel that their chicks I see on the hill will probably travel nearly 200 000 km before I am likely to see them again.”

Known as Toroa by local Māori, the Northern Royal Albatross is particularly at risk from habitat loss through storms and climate change.  Since the mid-1970s, both the Taiaroa Head and Chatham Islands colonies have experienced a warming and drying of their habitats.  Non-breeding Toroa are also caught by longline fisheries in the Humboldt Current and on the Patagonian Shelf off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America.

Sue Maturin White capped Albatross shrunk

Forest & Bird’s Sue Maturin with White-capped Albatrosses Thalassarche steadi off New Zealand’s west coast

Twelve species of albatrosses breed within New Zealand and its offshore islands– more than anywhere else on Earth.  Several are rare and are at risk of extinction from decreasing populations, such as that of the nominate subspecies of the globally Endangered and Nationally Critical Antipodean Albatross Diomedea a. antipodensis, which only breeds on the sub-Antarctic’s Antipodes Island.

“Out of the 12 albatross species that breed in New Zealand, at least nine are at risk from commercial fishing, with four species in serious trouble.  It’s devastating to think of these ocean wanderers being so unnecessarily caught on a hook or tangled in nets and fishing gear” says Sue.  Click here to learn more about New Zealand’s draft National Plan of Action – Seabirds that aims to reduce fishery deaths, released for consultation this month.

 

A pair of breeding Antipodean Albatrosses on Antipodes Island, photograph by Erica Sommer

“With New Zealand being the self-proclaimed seabird capital of the world, Forest & Bird is looking forward to celebrating World Albatross Day on 19 June 2020.  As well as showcasing these amazing seabirds, it will also be an opportunity to draw attention to their plight and urge countries around the world to adopt an aspirational goal of zero bycatch deaths.”

Sue ends: “Forest & Bird will be marking World Albatross Day with a series of stories celebrating these magnificent seabirds, the risks they face, and how it and in partnership with international bodies such as ACAP and BirdLife International, are working to save them”.

ACAP Latest News will report on Forest & Bird’s World Albatross Day activities up to the day on 19 June.

With thanks to Sue Maturin and Caroline Wood.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 January 2020

Plastic gloves for dinner? Marine debris regurgitated by South Atlantic albatrosses is thought derived from South American fisheries

Richard Phillips and Claire Waluda (British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK) have published in the open-access journal Environment International showing that marine debris associated with albatrosses and giant petrels breeding in the South Atlantic has increased since the 1990s, although current plastic loads recorded in the study seem unlikely to have an impact at the population level.

The paper’s abstract follows:

Increasing amounts of anthropogenic debris enter the ocean because of mismanagement in coastal communities and, despite a global ban on deliberate dumping, also from vessels, endangering wildlife. Assessing marine plastic pollution directly is challenging, and an alternative is to use seabirds as bioindicators. Our analyses of long time-series (26-years) revealed substantial variation in the amount, characteristics and origin of marine debris (mainly macroplastics and mesoplastics, and excluding fishing gear) associated with seabirds at South Georgia, and, for two species, long-term increases in incidence since 1994. Annual debris recovery rates (items per capita) were 14 × higher in wandering albatrosses Diomedea exulans, and 6 × higher in grey-headed albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma and giant petrels Macronectes spp., than in black-browed albatrosses T. melanophris, partly related to differences in egestion (regurgitation), which clears items from the proventriculus. Although some debris types were common in all species, wandering albatrosses and giant petrels ingested higher proportions that were food-related or generic wrapping, gloves, clear or mixed colour, and packaged in South America. This was highly likely to originate from vessels, including the large South American fishing fleets with which they overlap. Debris associated with the two smaller albatrosses was more commonly shorter, rigid (miscellaneous plastic and bottle/tube caps), and packaged in East Asia. Grey-headed albatrosses are exposed to large and increasing amounts of user plastics transported from coastal South America in the Subantarctic Current, or discarded from vessels and circulating in the South Atlantic Gyre, whereas the lower debris ingestion by black-browed albatrosses suggests that plastic pollution in Antarctic waters remains relatively low. Current plastic loads in our study species seem unlikely to have an impact at the population level, but the results nevertheless affirm that marine plastics are a major, trans-boundary animal-welfare and environmental issue that needs to be addressed by much-improved waste-management practices and compliance-monitoring both on land and on vessels in the south Atlantic.”

 

Wamdering Albatrosses on Bird Island in the South Atlantic, photograph by Richard Phillips

With thanks to Richard Phillips.

Reference:

Phillips, R.A. & Waluda, C. 2020.  Albatrosses and petrels at South Georgia as sentinels of marine debris input from vessels in the southwest Atlantic Ocean.  Environment International 136.  doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.105443.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 January 2020

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