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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All tied up: information on entangled seabirds, including albatrosses and petrels, requested

Plastic pollution is a global environmental issue with 4.8-12.7 million tonnes estimated to enter the world oceans every year.  Globally, 56% of all seabird species have been documented to have been affected by anthropogenic marine debris, predominantly plastic, either through entanglement or ingestion.  Seabirds are particularly at risk of entanglement from debris.  However, monitoring entanglement of seabirds is challenging as it generally occurs out at sea.  Seabirds can also become entangled in debris at the nest, with a number of species reported incorporating debris into their nests as nesting material.

Most of the evidence of seabirds becoming entangled in debris, and incorporating it into their nests is anecdotal, with little quantitative data, meaning that we do not have a good understanding of which species, and where, are affected and what impact it might have on individuals and populations.  To obtain useful data from anecdotal instances, and improve our understanding of this issue, we have launched a website to collate images and descriptions of entanglement and nest incorporation of anthropogenic debris, by any bird species, anywhere in the world.

Procellariiform seabirds have been shown to particularly be at risk of ingesting plastic, and are known to become entangled in active fishing gear.  Although procellariiforms may be less at risk from becoming entangled in anthropogenic debris, or collecting it as nesting material (e.g. click here and here) than for example are sulids (gannets and boobies) and cormorants, all birds that are associated with marine and freshwater habitats are thought to be at risk of entanglement to some extent.

Submissions to the website on entangled albatrosses or petrels, or on any other bird species, would be much appreciated.


Plastic sheeting, possibly wind-blown fishery waste, incorporated into nests of Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris on Steeple Jason, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*, November 2018; photographs by Megan Tierney

With thanks to Megan Tierney.

Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo., Environmental Research Institute, University of the Highlands and Islands, Thurso, UK & John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 August 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.

Book review: “Far from Land. The Mysterious Lives of Seabirds” by Michael Brooke





Brooke, M. 2018.  Far from Land.  The Mysterious Lives of Seabirds.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.  249 pp.  Eight colour plates; 13 colour maps; numerous black & white photographs, maps and charts; black & white illustrations by Bruce Pearson.  Hard cover.  ISBN 978-0-691-17418-1.  US$ 29.95, UK£ 24.00.





Michael Brooke is the Strickland Curator of Ornithology at the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, UK.  His previous books on seabirds include The Manx Shearwater published in 1990 (the subject of his doctoral research on the Welsh island of Skomer where we first met way back in 1982) and Albatrosses and Petrels across the World in 2004.  So, an established seabird author, what of his latest?

Far from Land. The Mysterious Lives of Seabirds is a more reflective book than that on the Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus, published over a quarter of a century earlier.  In 10 chapters the author takes the reader on a journey through both time and space.  The book’s main theme is “the elusive seafaring lives of albatrosses, frigatebirds, cormorants and other ocean wanderers”, showing how the development of miniaturized electronic devices have opened a window to what seabirds really are up to while they are out of sight of land at sea.  The author’s up-to-date accounts of this recent burgeoning of knowledge into pelagic seabird lives are interspersed with his own journeys to study seabird around the world.  Here we soon realize that Mike Brooke is nothing but well-travelled.  Starting off in the United Kingdom with undergraduate and postgraduate research sojourns on Fair Isle and the Shiants (both on the reviewer’s bucket list) and on Skomer, he spent a summer on South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island, engineered through the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town – where I spent most of my own seabird career.  Summer visits to the Tristan da Cunha Islands (Gough and Nightingale) and Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica followed, also in collaboration with my old institute.  Since those early days Mike has worked in South America on Chile’s Juan Fernández Islands and in Peru’s deserts searching for enigmatic storm petrels.  More recently he has worked on the outer islands of the lonely Pitcairn group, studying gadfly petrels on Henderson Island (click here).

Near Threatened Murphy's Petrel Pterodroma ultima on Henderson Island

 The attractive black and white illustrations are by artist Bruce Pearson.  The chosen colour photo and maps help illustrate the book – which comes seemingly free of typos, well bound and nicely presented with a dust jacket.

I enjoyed reading Mike Brooke’s latest book; and think anyone who studies seabirds, or just wants to know more about them, and their mysterious lives, will too.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 August 2019

Longliners kill Great Shearwaters in the western North Atlantic

Can Zhou (Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Polytechnic and State Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA) and colleagues have published in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems on mortality estimates for Great Shearwaters Ardenna gravis and other seabirds caused by North Atlantic longliners.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“1. Fisheries bycatch of seabirds presents a serious management problem, and relatively little is known about this problem. In the Western North Atlantic, the issue is complicated by the relatively low effort and coverage of the observer programme and the high uncertainty in species identification.

  1. The Western North Atlantic is home to many endemic and endangered seabird populations, and the impact of fishery‐caused seabird bycatch has been of high interest, especially for those species with a low population size; however, species‐specific bycatch estimates have been difficult. From 1992 to 2016, 158 seabirds were observed caught by the US Atlantic pelagic longline fleet; among them, only 80 were identified to species, 25 were identified to family, and the rest – mainly in the older records – were unidentified.
  2. In this study, ecological traits of seabirds were used to improve bycatch estimation and provide species‐specific risk analysis to all the potentially affected seabird species in this region. Bayesian state–space modelling was used to accommodate the high level of uncertainty in the species identification process.
  3. Seabird bycatch risk was found to be highly dependent on population size. The group of large seabird species was estimated to be two times as vulnerable as the group of mid‐to‐small seabird species, scavenging and plunge‐diving feeding modes were identified as imposing high bycatch risks, and spatial and temporal distribution patterns were also good indicators of bycatch risk. Based on these ecological traits, shearwaters, gulls, gannets, and petrels were identified to potentially suffer from high bycatch in this region. These species, especially those that have not been identified historically, deserve extra attention in the observer programme, and for the implementation of conservation measures of seabirds in this region.”

Great Shearwater at sea


Zhou, C., Jiao, Y. & Browder, J. 2019.  Seabird bycatch vulnerability to pelagic longline fisheries: ecological traits matter.  Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.  DOI: 10.1002/aqc.3066.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 August 2019

Looking after a captive Black-browed Albatross

Adriana Mastrangelli (Serviços em Meio Ambiente, Vitória, Brazil) and colleagues have an in-press paper in the open-access journal Marine Ornithology on blood analysis of a beached Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We conducted an erythrocyte and leukocyte analysis for a juvenile Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris that was found beached at Maricá, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. The absence of data on this species was problematic in our unsuccessful rehabilitation. We present our findings here to assist future rehabilitations of other individuals of this species.”


Black-browed Albatrosses, photograph by Ian Strange


Mastrangelli, A., Baldassin, P., Jerdy, H. & Werneck, M.R. 2019.  Veterinary care and whole blood count of a juvenile Black- browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris beached on the coast of Brazil.  Marine Ornithology 47: 167-168.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 August 201

Global review confirms albatrosses and petrels are among the most threatened seabirds - but plastics not their biggest problem

Maria Dias (BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK) and colleagues have published in the journal Biological Conservation on threats facing the world’s 359 species of seabirds.  Albatrosses and petrels are among the most at risk, both on land (introduced rodents and domestic cats at breeding sites) and at sea (fisheries bycatch).  The study “also contradicts popular opinion, by concluding that plastic pollution is not yet a major cause of population declines of seabirds globally”, according to BirdLife’s popular account of the publication.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We present the first objective quantitative assessment of the threats to all 359 species of seabirds, identify the main challenges facing them, and outline priority actions for their conservation.  We applied the standardised Threats Classification Scheme developed for the IUCN Red List to objectively assess threats to each species and analysed the data according to global IUCN threat status, taxonomic group, and primary foraging habitat (coastal or pelagic).  The top three threats to seabirds in terms of number of species affected and average impact are: invasive alien species, affecting 165 species across all the most threatened groups; bycatch in fisheries, affecting fewer species (100) but with the greatest average impact; and climate change/severe weather, affecting 96 species.  Overfishing, hunting/trapping and disturbance were also identified as major threats to seabirds.  Reversing the top three threats alone would benefit two-thirds of all species and c. 380 million individual seabirds (c. 45% of the total global seabird population).  Most seabirds (c. 70%), especially globally threatened species, face multiple threats.  For albatrosses, petrels and penguins in particular (the three most threatened groups of seabirds), it is essential to tackle both terrestrial and marine threats to reverse declines.  As the negative effects of climate change are harder to mitigate, it is vital to compensate by addressing other major threats that often affect the same species, such as invasive alien species, bycatch and overfishing, for which proven solutions exist.”


Read a popular account of the publication here.

With thanks to Maria Dias, Marine Science Coordinator, BirdLife International


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

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 August 2019

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