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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Island Conservation will support World Albatross Day by helping eradicate House Mice on Gough and Midway Islands this year

The mission of the international non-profit organization Island Conservation is to prevent extinctions by removing invasive species from islands.  It works with local communities, government management agencies and conservation organizations on islands with the greatest potential for preventing the extinction of globally threatened species.  “We develop comprehensive and humane plans for the removal of invasive species, implement the removal of invasive species; and conduct research to better understand how invasive species removal changes and benefits island ecosystems and to inform future conservation action”.

Island Conservation

Island Conservation is headquartered in the United States with field offices in Australia, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.  Since its founding in 1994 Island Conservation and its partners have successfully restored 64 islands worldwide, benefiting 1195 populations of 487 species and subspecies (click here).

Gregg Howald, Island Conservation’s Director of Global and External Affairs has written to ACAP Latest News:

“We are proud to be celebrating World Albatross Day while implementing projects this year to remove invasive House Mice from Midway and Gough Islands in partnership with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.  These projects will help restore the breeding habitat of six species of albatrosses.  Restoration of breeding habitat through removal of invasive predators is a proven conservation tool that can have lasting and permanent benefits for breeding marine birds, including albatrosses.  The eradication of invasive species from islands removes one of the many pressures these birds face, and we are proud to be contributing to the successes of these globally significant programmes around the world.”

Gregg Howald

Gregg Howald, Island Conservation’s Director of Global and External Affairs

This year ACAP has chosen the overall theme “Eradicating Island Pests” to mark the inauguration of World Albatross Day on 19 June this year.  By then the eradication efforts on both Gough and Midway will either be underway or in the last stages of planning.  Although their success will not be immediately known, all who celebrate World Albatross Day 2020 with ACAP will surely be wishing the two field teams the very best of luck and an end to the islands’ ‘killer’ mice.

With thanks to Emily Heber & Gregg Howald, Island Conservation.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 January 2020

Midway’s Short-tailed Albatrosses, George and Geraldine, hatch their latest egg

George and Geraldine, the globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross or ‘Golden Gooney’ Phoebastria albatrus solitary pair on Midway Atoll’s Sand Island, hatched their latest egg on 2 January.  George had taken up the final incubation shift from Geraldine just four days earlier on 29 December; the egg is reported as being laid on 28 October (click here).  Both birds were first seen in the current breeding season on the same day of 23 October last year.  ACAP Latest News assumes they had arrived unnoticed earlier than this to allow for mating and the usual (for procellariiforms) egg-making ‘honeymoon’ trip or pre-laying exodus of around 10 days or more to sea by the female.

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George with its recently hatched chick, photographs by V. Ternisian

Read what is known of George and Geraldine’s history and previous breeding attempts (they successfully fledged their first chick in the previous 2018/19 season) here.  Intriguing to note the synchrony of breeding between the two seasons, in 2018/19 their egg hatched on 3 January (although it should be noted hatching can be a lengthy process lasting more than a day, so the exact day of the chick finally leaving the shell may be difficult to record).

Meanwhile, Midway's other famous pair, 69-something Wisdom and mate Akeakamai, the Laysan Albatrosses P. immutabilis, are taking a 'gap year', having not laid an egg this season after being seen back together in Sand Island last November (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 January 2020

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