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.

Contact the ACAP Information Officer if you wish to have your news featured.

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Eradication of “killer” mice on World Heritage Gough Island passes the planning stage with a first sailing

Last week the Gough Island Restoration Programme got underway to rid the island of its introduced House Mice Mus musculus that attack and kill chicks of the Critically Endangered and near-endemic Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena (and of other of the island's breeding birds).  South Africa's Antarctic ship, the S.A. Agulhas II, sailed from Cape Town on its annual relief voyage to Gough Island on 2 September with a five-person advance party from the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and BirdLife South Africa's Seabird Conservation Programme aboard to start setting up for next year's planned eradication of the mice.

Tristan Albatross chick severely wounded by mice, photograph by Karen Bourgeois & Sylvain Dromzee

The team is taking out materials for erecting aviaries for protecting the island’s two species of threatened land birds during the poison bait drop and an emergency hut manufactured by South Africa, as well as needed equipment such as tents.  Listen to a dockside video clip featuring Team Leader Andrew Callender filmed by the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa project.

John Cooper, ACAP information Officer, 11 September 2019

At risk to gill nets, longlines and purse seines: tracking Pink-footed Shearwaters on migration

Jonathan Felis (U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Santa Cruz, California, USA) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Endangered Species Research on tracking ACAP-listed Pink-footed Shearwater Ardenna creatopus at sea from Chile to Canada.

Pink-footed Shearwater, photograph by Peter Hodum

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The pink-footed shearwater Ardenna creatopus has a breeding range restricted to 3 central-Chilean islands and travels north in the eastern Pacific Ocean during the non-breeding period.  Despite its Vulnerable IUCN status, the locations and relative importance of core non-breeding areas and migratory pathways of the species are not well understood.  During 5 years between 2006 and 2015, we tracked the movements of 42 after-hatch-year pink-footed shearwaters in the non-breeding season using satellite tags.  Tracked shearwaters exhibited 2 post-breeding-season migration strategies: 28% of individuals traveled 1600-2500 km north from their colonies to spend the entire non-breeding season off Peru, and 72% traveled 8000-11000 km north to waters off western North America (Baja California, Mexico, to southernmost Canada).  Individuals that traveled to North America stopped in Peruvian waters on each leg of the migration, making this a migratory bottleneck.  Core non-breeding-season areas included continental shelf and slope waters off Trujillo to Lima (Peru), central Baja California (Mexico), southern to central California (USA), and central Oregon (USA) to southern Vancouver Island (Canada).  Of 12 national exclusive economic zones (EEZs) encountered north of their breeding range, birds primarily utilized the USA, Peru and Mexico, and to a lesser degree Chile, Canada, and Ecuador.  Bycatch in fisheries was recently identified as a significant at-sea threat to pink-footed shearwaters, and we found evidence of pink-footed shearwater bycatch in 6 EEZs encountered by tracked birds, although quantification of bycatch magnitude is variable and not all fisheries have been studied.”


Breeding- and non-breeding-season residency areas, and migratory corridors of Pink-footed Shearwaters tracked from Chile and California; from the publication


Felis, J.J., Adams, J., Hodum, P.J., Carle, R.D. & Colodro, V. 2019.  Eastern Pacific migration strategies of pink-footed shearwaters Ardenna creatopus: implications for fisheries interactions and international conservation.  Endangered Species Research 39: 269-282.

John Cooper, ACAP information Officer, 10 September 2019

Bird Island responds to the World Albatross Day banner challenge

At its most recent Advisory Committee meeting (AC11) ACAP decided to inaugurate a World Albatross Day, to be held on 19 June each year - the date the Agreement was signed in Canberra, Australia in 2001.  ACAP will be spending the period until 19 June next year advertising the day via social media and in other ways, so that come the day interested communities around the world can start to become involved with activities, events, media releases and the like.

As part of publicizing World Albatross Day prior to its inauguration, field teams working with albatrosses at breeding localities have been requested to make a suitably-worded banner advertising the 19 June event to draw attention to the birds’ conservation crisis.  The banner would then be photographed with the field workers in a suitable setting in the general vicinity of breeding albatrosses.  Gough Island was the first locality to rise to the challenge, now followed by Bird Island farther south in the Atlantic.

 British Antarctic Survey’s Albatross Zoological Field Assistant Rosie Hall based on Bird Island has made a banner out of an old mattress cover using stencils, fabric pens and stock marker spray paint.  She writes to ACAP Latest News: “Having had a calm day yesterday [23 August] (by Bird Island’s standards! – the banner was still catching the wind even when guyed down) I’ve photographed the World Albatross Day banner I’ve made out in the vicinity of a Wanderer chick, mindful of the South Georgia [Islas Georgias del Sur]*standard five metres away from wildlife rule (unless working under a science permit).”

Bird Island’s World Albatross Day banner displayed in the snow.  A Vulnerable Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans chick is just visible in the background above 'Bird Island' on the banner; photograph by Rosie Hall

Rosie Hall, Albatross Zoological Field Assistant (right) displays her World Albatross Day Banner with Claire Fraser, Seal Zoological Field Assistant (left) outside Pete Prince House on Bird Island.  Peter Alexander Prince, PM (1948-1998) studied albatrosses on the island in several innovative ways, including pioneering the use of artificial nests that incorporated weighing balances to record meal sizes and growth

Photograph by Mark Whiffin

Later in the year the Bird Island banner will get more outings as the summer-breeding albatrosses return.  It’s expected to stand out more once the winter snow has gone!

With thanks to Rosie Hall.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 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.

Volunteers are required to complete rodent eradication on World Heritage Lord Howe Island

This year a long-awaited attempt to eradicate Black Rats Rattus rattus and House Mice Mus musculus on Australia’s Lord Howe Island took place, as reported in ACAP Latest News (click here)

Following an aerial bait drop coupled with ground baiting volunteers are now required to help mop up the last few rodents on Australia’s World Heritage Island in an effort to give a more secure future for its populations of shearwaters and petrels, including the Flesh-footed Shearwater Ardenna carneipes (globally Near Threatened and a proposed candidate for ACAP listing).

“Volunteers will help recover one of the world’s rarest insects while taking part in a program that will change the lives of critically endangered animals.  The project reached the halfway point for ground-baiting operations in August 2019 and is now entering one of the most critical phases of the project – hunting down the few remaining individual rodents.  The volunteer field officer will undertake pest and weed management and revegetation work.  Volunteer field officers will join the ground-baiting crew servicing 18 900 external bait stations and 2200 monitoring devices over the settlement area of the island, replenishing bait, logging bait take and rodent sign.”


Serried ranks of roofed bait stations on Lord Howe pasture land, photograph by Ian Hutton

The starting date is stated as to be as soon as possible.  For additional information regarding the project visit the Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project.

Read conditions and requirements for the positions and how to apply here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer 06 September 2019

(Not) feeding the baby: a Northern Royal Albatross chick at Taiaroa Head regurgitates an infant formula scoop

The current season’s crop of globally Endangered and nationally Naturally Uncommon Northern Royal Albatross or Toroa Diomedea sanfordi chicks on New Zealand’s Taiaroa Head will be fledging soon.  Similar to other albatross species chicks close to fledging regurgitate their accumulated stomach contents to "lighten the load” before their first flight.  In a “normal” situation the regurgitated boluses are made up of hard undigested parts emanating from the meals fed to them by their parents, such as squid beaks, fish bones, and sometimes pieces of pumice.

Unfortunately, the situation for albatrosses is no longer normal and chick boluses (most notably of North Pacific species) now often contain fragments and pieces of hard plastic that had been fed to them.  Taiaroa’s Toroa chicks are no exception as Department Of Conservation (DOC) Wildlife Ranger Sharyn Broni has posted to The Royal Albatross Centre Facebook page:

“Items of plastic have been found in regurgitations from three albatross chicks over the weekend.  This piece of a handle from a scoop for infant formula I witnessed being regurgitated by our oldest female chick on Sunday [25 August] amongst 150 g of squid beaks and liquid.  It all looked very uncomfortable and she went and sat down for some time afterwards.  It is better out than in but is a very worrying trend that we are seeing here.”


Enfamil infant formula scoop regurgitated by a Northern Royal Albatross chick, photograph by Sharyn Broni

It will take a massive reduction in single-use plastic on a global scale to address properly this problem (click here for DOC’s suggestions).  Until then, albatross chicks will have to continue to regurgitate their unwanted plastic loads before heading out to sea.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 September 2019

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