Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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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.

ACAP veteran Chief Officers support World Albatross Day

 The first World Albatross Day is set to be celebrated on 19 June next year, 19 years after the Albatross and Petrel Agreement was signed in Canberra, Australia on the same date.  In the first few years of the Agreement an Advisory Committee was established, followed by four working groups, along with the appointment of the then Interim Secretariat’s first Executive Secretary, Warren Papworth.  In 2006 the seven chief officers of these bodies co-authored a Forum paper in the journal Marine Ornithology that sets out the rationale for the Agreement, its history and progress up to that year and included some discussion on a way forward.  Notably, four of these seven veterans are still involved with ACAP in various capacities, regularly attending annual meetings and contributing to discussions.

Following an outreach exercise the ‘ACAP Vets’ have offered short statements in support of the inauguration of World Albatross Day next year.  Their quotes follow.

Barry Baker

“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.” - Dr Barry Baker, Director, Latitude 42 Environmental Management Consultants, Scientific Councillor (By-catch), Convention on Migratory Species; Convenor, Executive Committee, Australasian Seabird Group; past Convenor and current member, ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Double

“To misquote Robert Cushman Murphy, everyone today and in the future deserves the chance to join the higher cult of mortals by seeing an albatross.  I will never forget the day I did and my life was better for it.  I thank all those around world fighting to save albatrosses, you make the world a richer place.” - Dr Michael Double, Leader Antarctic Wildlife and Management Section, Australian Antarctic Division; Alternate Commissioner (Science), Australian Delegation to the International Whaling Commission; past Convenor & current Vice-convenor, ACAP Taxonomy Working Group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosemary Gales

“Our assessments of the status of albatrosses paint a solemn forecast.  These magnificent birds, however, share their stage with a determined band of people across the world who are committed to their conservation and survival.  Tides can be turned and we must continue to collaborate to improve the status of this flagship group of birds.  ACAP provides a mechanism where we can work together and World Albatross Day provides a wonderful moment to celebrate the successes and re-commit to our ongoing endeavours.” – Dr Rosemary Gales, Co-editor, Albatross Biology and Conservation (1998); past Convenor, ACAP Status and Trends Working Group; past Co-convenor, ACAP Population and Conservation Status Working Group

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Tasker

“Albatrosses are one of the pinnacles of evolution in harnessing the winds to search much of the world’s oceans for food.  Sadly, human activities are putting them at risk of extinction.  I hope that World Albatross Day will highlight their plight and encourage a greater focus globally on their conservation.” - Mark Tasker, retired Head of Marine Advice, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, United Kingdom; past Chair and Vice Chair of ACAP Advisory Committee; Convenor of the ACAP Taxonomy Working Group

 

 

 

Susan Waugh

A haiku from the heart on the theme of Toroa/Albatrosses:

"Splendid, great white bird

Vulnerable, clinging on

At the world’s edges”

– Dr Susan Waugh, Head of Science, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; past Convenor, ACAP Breeding Sites Working Group

 

 

 

 

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, 27 September 2019

The Third World Seabird Conference, Hobart, October 2020 calls for abstracts

Abstract submissions are now being accepted for the Third World Seabird Conference (WSC3), to be held in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia over 19-23 October 2020.  Submissions are now being accepted for symposia, contributed oral presentations and posters.  More information can be found on the conference website regarding submissions guidelines, process and accepted symposia.

 

 “In seeking to make the 3rd World Seabird Conference truly a global meeting, the Travel Awards Committee will search for representation from as many countries as possible.  Students, Early Career Scientists (ECS), established seabird scientists, and conservation practitioners from developing countries as well as officially retired but still active seabird scientists are encouraged to apply. Travel Awards are intended to help defray the cost of attending the meeting, not to cover all expenses.  More information regarding the application process, explanations and deadlines can be found on the website.

The deadline for abstract and travel award submissions is 30 November 2019

John Cooper, ACAP information Officer, 26 September 2019

Numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwaters have increased on New Zealand’s Motumahanga Island

Flesh-footed Shearwaters Ardenna carnepeis (Toanui) on New Zealand’s Motumahanga or Saddle Back Island currently number between 500 and 600 pairs, a large increase on the 100 to 200 pairs that were present in 1990, according to a recent survey by Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and Wildlife Management International.  The island is one of the Sugar Loaf Islands falling within a Marine Protected Area off the west coast of North Island.

DOC’s Graeme Taylor reports “I was on the 1990 trip and the shearwater burrows were mostly at the southern end, and in patches on the western side.  The rest of the island was dominated by a dense diving petrel colony.  Now the shearwater colony has spread across the plateau and is the dominant species on the island.”  The diving petrel population on the island had declined substantially since the 1990s when several thousand pairs were thought to be present, possibly to be due to competition for breeding space with the shearwaters.

Landing on uninhabited Motumahanga Island is by permit and the island subject to strict biosecurity controls against both plant and animal pests.

Flesh-footed Shearwaters, photograph by Ian Hutton

The globally Near Threatened and Nationally Vulnerable Flesh-footed Shearwater is a potential candidate for nomination to the Albatross and Petrel Agreement (click here).

Read more here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 September 2019

World Albatross Day’s theme for its inaugural year of Eradicating Island Pests receives support from international restoration experts

The first World Albatross Day is set to be celebrated on 19 June next year.  Following discussion, and consideration of the main threats facing albatrosses identified in a recent review in the journal Biological Conservation, the theme of eradicating introduced pests at breeding sites of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters has been chosen to highlight a continuing, but addressable, problem facing ACAP-listed species, many of which are threatened with extinction unless actions are taken.  Although not all 13 Parties to the Agreement support breeding populations of albatrosses, they are all range states, so those without (including some cooperating non-Party range states) will have an interest in conservation efforts conducted at the breeding sites of species that regularly visit their territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones - where they will be susceptible to interactions with domestic fishing vessels.

Next year attempts will be made to eradicate introduced House Mice Mus musculus on the UK’s Gough Island and the USA’s Midway Atoll.  At both localities mice have been attacking and killing albatrosses, as has been regularly reported in ACAP Latest News.  Planning and field work is expected to continue towards eradicating mice on South Africa’s Marion Island and on New Zealand’s Auckland Island (along with its feral cats and pigs) in 2020.  These, and other pest eradication projects at breeding sites of ACAP-listed species, will be highlighted in the build up to World Albatross Day on 19 June next year.

Quotes in support of World Albatross Day and its inaugural theme follow from five well-known island restoration experts, all of whom have been involved, mostly as leaders, of successful island eradications of rodents and other introduced mammals from albatross and petrel breeding islands over the past few decades.

Peter Garden

“Albatrosses frequent the uninhabited places of the globe but even here, their very survival is affected by human activity.” - Peter J. Garden ONZM*, Remote Habitat Restoration Specialist and Helicopter Pilot, Wanaka, New Zealand

*Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to aviation and conservation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Tony Martin

“The cherished memory of your first albatross, often a steadfast, alabaster-white arc wheeling above a dark, malevolent ocean, is one that remains forever.  We can, and must, do whatever is necessary to safeguard these magical creatures; the world, and our human successors, would be immeasurably impoverished without them.” - Tony Martin, Emeritus Professor of Animal Conservation, University of Dundee; 2016 Conservationist of the Year, Zoological Society of London; Past Leader, South Georgia Heritage Trust Habitat Restoration Project; author, Albatrosses (2011).

 

 

 

 

Pete McClelland

“Albatrosses represent everything that is special about the Southern Ocean.  From the impressive size of the great albatrosses as they glide effortlessly across thousands of kilometres of ocean to the haunting cry of a Light-mantled Albatross as it undertakes its courtship flight, it is impossible not to be moved by these birds.  To lose them is to lose part of our soul. World Albatross Day reminds us of just how important they are and why we must work to protect them.” – Pete McClelland, Operations Manager, Gough Island Restoration Programme, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, past Project Manager, Campbell Island Rat Eradication Project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sally Poncet

“Living in the South Atlantic, sailing the Southern Ocean and visiting its islands, studying Wanderers every year, albatrosses have been an ever-present part of my life for decades.  Viewed by some as canaries in the coalmine of an ailing planet, symbols of hope for future generations by others, for me albatrosses are workers of miracles for the passion they give us.  World Albatross Day: what a great way for us all to share our thoughts on albatrosses and bring immediacy to their plight.” – Sally Poncet PM*, Rodent Eradication Leader, Falklands Islands (Islas Malvinas)*, Island LandCare; author, Southern Ocean Cruising (2007); co-author, A Visitor's Guide to South Georgia (2012).

*Polar Medal

 

 

 

 

 

 Keith Springer

“Albatrosses already face so many threats at sea.  On some of the islands they breed on, they face existential threats from introduced predators as well, so the populations are getting squeezed from both land and sea.  World Albatross Day is a great opportunity to highlight not only the threats faced by these normally long-lived birds, but also some of the measures that can be taken to reduce the risks to them.  Without actions to reduce fishing mortality and introduced predators on their breeding islands, we face the sad but very real possibility of a world without albatrosses.” - Keith Springer, past Manager, Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project, Parks & Wildlife Service, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Tasmania, Technical Advisor, Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project

 

 

 

 

 

With thanks to Peter Garden, Tony Martin, Pete McClelland, Keith Springer and Sally Poncet.

Reference:

Dias, M.P., Martin, R., Pearmain, E.J., Burfield, A.J., Small, C., Phillips, R.A., Yates, O., Lascelles, B., Garcia Borboroglu, P. & Croxall, J.P. 2019.  Threats to seabirds: a global assessment.  Biological Conservation doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.06.033.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 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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