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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France completes the sub-Antarctic hat-trick: a World Albatross Day banner gets displayed on Kerguelen

Three sub-Antarctic island groups in the southern Indian Ocean belong to France, a Party to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.  These are the Crozets, Amsterdam and St Paul, and Kerguelen, all administered by the French Southern and Antarctic Territories (Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises - TAAF).  France supports research stations on Possession Island in the Crozet group, on Amsterdam and on Kerguelen.  At each researchers undertake monitoring and other studies of the islands’ breeding seabirds, including on a number of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.

ACAP has reached out to marine ornithologists at the three research stations with requests that they make banners and photograph them in the field that emphasize the conservation crisis facing the world’s albatrosses and also draw attention to next year’s inaugural World Albatross Day.  ACAP Latest News has previously posted on banners from Amsterdam and Possession Islands, and is now pleased to announce a French hat-trick with photographs of a banner taken at two localities by Kerguelen’s ornithologists.  Aude Schreiber and Tobie Getti (Mission 69) undertake long-time monitoring of several bird and mammal species, including the ACAP-listed Black-browed Thalassarche melanophris and Wandering Diomedea exulans Albatrosses and Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea, as well as several other species of burrowing petrels on Kerguelen.

 Kerguelen banner.s

From left: Anne Bontemps (bottom), Léa Dillard, David Gallien (centre), Aude Schreiber (top) and Tobie Getti display their banner behind a Wandering Albatross chick on the Prince de Galles Peninsula; photograph by Aude Schreiber

 Kerguelen banner.BBA

On the cliffs of the Canon des Sourcils noirs colony of Black-browed Albatrosses on the Jeanne d’Arc Peninsula.  From left: Tobie Getti, Aude Schreiber and Baptiste Camus; photograph by Marc Le Pape

The three French banners join others displayed on New Zealand, South African and UK islands in the Southern Ocean.  More are expected as albatross breeding seasons get underway.  It is intended to make a selection of these banner photographs to create a freely-downloadable A3 poster to mark World Albatross Day on 19 June 2020.

With thanks to Aude Schreiber and Tobie Getti.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 December 2019

 

Australia joins other national BirdLife partners in supporting World Albatross Day

BirdLife Australia is the national partner of BirdLife International.  Founded in 1901, the bird conservation charity is dedicated to delivering outstanding conservation outcomes for native birds and their habitats.  BirdLife Australia’s motto is ‘standing together to stop extinction’.  The organisation runs a number of multi-species landscape-scale bird conservation programmes.

BirdLife Australia WAD Logo

BirdLife Australia has joined a growing number of BirdLife Partners in both hemispheres that have signaled their support for the inauguration next year of an annual World Albatross Day on 19 June, the date the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) was signed in Canberra in 2001.  Australia took the lead in initiating negotiations that led to the Agreement and is a founding Party, as well as being ACAP’s Depository (click here).  The ACAP Secretariat in based in Hobart in Tasmania.

Paul Sullivan.s

Paul Sullivan, BirdLife Australia’s Chief Executive

Paul Sullivan, BirdLife Australia’s Chief Executive, has written to ACAP Latest News: “When albatrosses swallow the baited hooks used by longline fishing vessels, or interact with trawl gear, they drown.  Real international action is needed to stop this avoidable industrial-scale slaughter.”

Barry Baker 2013

Barry Baker, Convenor, Australasian Seabird Group

The Australasian Seabird Group (ASG), a special-interest group of BirdLife Australia, has also lent its support to World Albatross Day.  Its Convenor, Barry Baker, writes to ALN: “Many albatrosses and petrels are threatened with extinction and only slight increases in the mortality of adults can rapidly reduce populations within a couple of decades.  In a world where there is a focus on the sustainability of extractive industries it behoves fishers and fishery managers to take all necessary steps to reduce the impacts of their activities on non-target species, including seabirds.”

ACAP will liaise with BirdLife Australia (and the Australasian Seabird Group) over the next half a year in raising awareness of World Albatross Day and of the conservation crisis facing albatrosses and petrels among the concerned public in Australia, including the eight ACAP-listed species that breed within Australia and on its sub-Antarctic islands of Heard and Macquarie.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 December 2019

Breeding numbers of Northern and Southern Giant Petrels increase at South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*

Sally Poncet (South Georgia Surveys) and colleagues have published in the journal Polar Biology on the results of a survey of breeding giant petrels Macronectes spp. on South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Information on the status of giant petrels breeding at South Georgia was previously based on studies at a small number of the archipelago's breeding sites.  Here, we report the results of the first complete archipelago-wide survey of breeding northern Macronectes halli and southern M. giganteus giant petrels in the austral summers 2005/2006 and 2006/2007.  We estimate that 15,398 pairs of northern and 8803 pairs of southern giant petrels bred at South Georgia.  These are the largest and second largest populations at any island group, representing 71.0% and 17.3%, respectively, of updated global estimates of 21,682 pairs of northern and 50,819 pairs of southern giant petrels.  A comparison of counts at locations surveyed in both 1986/1987–1987/1988 and 2005/2006–2006/2007 indicated increases of 74% and 27% in northern and southern giant petrels, respectively, over the intervening 18–20 years.  The greater increase in northern giant petrels was likely influenced by the recovery of the Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus gazella population at South Georgia, which provides an abundant but transient food resource (carrion).  Due to allochrony, this provides greater benefits to northern giant petrels.  The large, and increasing, population of king penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus at South Georgia also provides a potentially valuable food resource.  The flexible and opportunistic foraging behaviour of giant petrels has contributed to their positive population trends.  Other, more specialised, seabirds such as albatrosses have declined at South Georgia in recent decades mainly because of problems at sea, compounded by greater predation pressure from the increasing populations of giant petrels.”

 Southern Giant Petrel South Georgia 8 Kirk Zufelt

A giant petrel displays on South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

With thanks to Richard Phillips and Anton Wolfaardt.

Reference:

Poncet, S., Wolfaardt, A.C., Barbraud, C., Reyes-Arriagada, R., Black, A., Powell, R.B. & Phillips, R.A. 2019.  The distribution, abundance, status and global importance of giant petrels (Macronectes giganteus and M. halli) breeding at South Georgia.  Polar Biology doi.org/10.1007/s00300-019-02608-y.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 December 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.

 

Obituary: Antarctic doyen Denzil Miller hosted the final negotiation meeting for ACAP in Cape Town in 2001

Professor Denzil G.M. Miller, AM, PhD (30 May 1951 – 30 November 2019), a professorial fellow at the University of Wollongong and a Senior Adjunct Researcher at the University of Tasmania, passed away at his home in Tasmania last week at the age of 68.

Denzil Miller had a long career in Antarctic marine science and policy.  Raised in Zambia and Zimbabwe, he started his research career at South Africa’s University of Cape Town (where we were colleagues for a few years).  In 1979 he moved to the South African governmental marine environmental department where he conducted research in the Southern Ocean as a biological oceanographer.  We sailed together to Antarctic’s Prydz Bay in 1984 as part of South Africa’s contribution to the SIBEX 1 cruise of the international BIOMASS (Biological Investigations of Marine Antarctic Systems and Stocks) programme.  He trawled for Antarctic Krill Euphausia superba, I counted the birds around the vessel in between and at each sampling station; some evenings we drank beer.  From this, and other southern cruises, Denzil earned a PhD from the University of Cape Town for his important studies of krill.

Denzil Miller2

Early in his career Denzil started taking managerial roles in addition to conducting research.  As Chair of the erstwhile Prince Edward Islands Management Committee he contributed to the drafting and completion of South Africa’s sub-Antarctic islands’ first management plan.  He also played an important role hosting and leading the South African Delegation to the final negotiation meeting that led to ACAP, held in Cape Town in early 2001.  I took the more lowly role of organizing the meeting and was grateful for his polite firmness when one delegation took political issue with the invitation list, and then another with the seating arrangements, leading to our having to move the tables to achieve an acceptable layout!

Shortly after the Cape Town meeting and the successful adoption of the Agreement’s text, Denzil and his family moved from South Africa to Australia to take up the position of Executive Secretary to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) – for which he had previously served as Convener of its then krill working group (WG-Krill) and Chair of its Scientific Committee, while representing South Africa at both Scientific Committee and Commission meetings.  He served as Executive Secretary from 2002 to 2010, during which time we met up from time to time in both ACAP’s and CCAMLR’S home city of Hobart. One of our last meetings was when I gave an invited talk on the conservation crisis facing albatrosses and petrels from pirate longline fishing in the Southern Ocean as part of Hobart’s Antarctic Midwinter Festival.  Fittingly, I gave the talk in CCAMLR’S headquarters.

Denzil kept an association with CCAMLR towards the end of his career as a Board Member of the NGO Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), attending Scientific and Commission meetings on ASOC's Delegation from 2017 until this year.

Denzil Miller received a number of awards for his contributions to marine science and policy, including the no-longer issued South African Antarctic Medal in 1995 and the WWF [World Wide Fund for Nature] Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal in 2007.  He was made a Honorary Member of the Order of Australia in 2011 in recognition of his service to the conservation of Antarctic marine life.

denzil miller

Denzil receives the WWF conservation medal from the Duke of Edinburgh

Denzil leaves his wife Jenny, daughters Robyn and Hannah, son Richard and seven grandchildren.  ACAP extends its sincere condolences to them and to his colleagues who have worked ‘down south’ with him over many years.  Hamba kahle, Denzil.

A Celebration of the Life of Denzil Miller will be held on 12 December at the CCAMLR Headquarters in Hobart.

With thanks to Carol Jacobs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 December 2019

Avaunt yee mice of Auckland! Working towards a summer bait drop in the New Zealand sub-Antarctic

James Russell (University of Auckland, New Zealand) and colleagues have published a Department of Conservation report that summarizes field work undertaken last summer on New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Auckland Island preparatory to an attempt to eradicate House Mice Mus musculus.

The report’s abstract follows:

“Auckland Island is the last of the New Zealand subantarctic islands to have introduced mammals, including pigs (Sus scrofa), cats (Felis catus) and mice (Mus musculus), and its large size makes mouse eradication logistically challenging.  Therefore, it has been suggested that a lower bait sowing rate than is typically used for island rodent eradications should be applied and that eradication should be undertaken during summer, despite this being the rodent breeding season and alternative food being more readily available . In February 2019, we evaluated the effectiveness of this proposal by applying 4 kg/ha of non-toxic cereal bait containing the fluorescent dye pyranine across Falla Peninsula, Auckland Island, and trapping mice for 7 days using 13 live and kill trapping grids to determine their population status, density, home range size and bait uptake.  In addition, bait availability was concurrently monitored along 30 transects.  Mice were initially neophobic towards the trapping devices and thereafter were captured at low rates across both trap types.  Mouse density varied greatly across the grids (range = 26.4–105.6 mice/ha) and was independent of habitat type, and the home range radius of mice was estimated to be 34 m, although this was based on only one grid in coastal forest, where there was a medium density of mice.  Bait was still available on the ground in a potentially palatable condition at a density of > 1.2 kg/ha at 9 nights after bait application.  Only 2 of 232 mice (< 1%) that were caught within the treatment area showed no evidence of consuming bait, both of which were very small juveniles caught in tussock grassland.  Therefore, we believe they would have been vulnerable to a second application of bait approximately 4 weeks later once they were mature.”

Loading the non toxic biomarker laced baitpng

Loading non-toxic, biomarker-laced mouse bait on Auckland Island, photograph by Finlay Cox

Read a popular account of the field work and an earlier ALN post.

Check outr a "story map" on the whole of the summer field work: looks positive for an eradication to go ahead!

Reference:

Russell, J.C., Griffiths, R., Bannister, W.M., Le Lievre, M.E., Cox, F.S. & Horn, S.R. 2019.  Mouse bait uptake and availability trials on Falla Peninsula, Auckland Island.  DOC Research and Development Series 363.  Wellington: Department of Conservation.  11 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 December 2019

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