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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In their own words. ACAP’s Working Group Convenors signal their support for next year’s World Albatross Day

ACAP’s Advisory Committee currently has three working groups that report to it at its meetings that normally take place two years of every three.  It most recently met (AC11) in May this year in Brazil.  The 12th meeting of the Advisory Committee is set to take place next year in Ecuador.  Each of the three working groups is led by two to four convenors appointed by the Advisory Committee for fixed terms.  These are the Taxonomy WG, Population and Conservation Status WG and the Seabird Bycatch WG.

The TWG discusses issues intersessionally at the request of the Advisory Committee; the PaCSWG and SBWG meet the week before the Advisory Committee for a total of five days, normally at the same venue.  Reports from the working groups are presented to the Advisory Committee by their convenors, which then considers their recommendations for possible action.

At AC11 it was agreed to launch the inaugural World Albatross Day next year on 19 June, the date the Agreement was signed in Canberra, Australia in 2001, with the aim of increasing awareness among the general public of the conservation crisis facing albatrosses and petrels (click here).  Welcome support for this initiative has come from ACAP working group convenors in correspondence with ACAP Latest News as set out below.

Mike Double of the Australian Antarctic Division and Vice-convenor, Taxonomy Working Group writes: “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.”

 

 

 

 

 

Argentinian Marco Favero, ACAP’s second Executive Secretary from 2016 to 2018, and now Co-convenor of the Population and Conservation Status Working Group says “Albatrosses are globally threatened birds that require our urgent attention.  Governments and decision makers must understand this urgency and strengthen conservation actions that reverse the negative effects on these species and their habitats.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Phillips, albatross researcher at the British Antarctic Survey, past Co-convenor and current Vice-convenor of the Population and Conservation Status Working Group offers his support: “Albatrosses are some of the most iconic of birds, and, sadly, amongst the most threatened.  World Albatross Day is an excellent way to increase awareness of their conservation.”

 

 

 

 

Patricia Pereira Serafini, National Center for Bird Conservation and Research, Brazil serves as Co-convenor of the PaCSWG.  She writes to ACAP Latest News:  “The future of albatrosses and petrels depends on people.  Public awareness of the conservation situation facing albatrosses and petrels can drive people all over the world to encourage fishers and fishery managers to take necessary steps to reduce seabird bycatch.  Albatrosses and petrels are among the most thrilling birds on the planet; they are impossible not to fall in love with when you get to know them.  World Albatross Day has the potential to make the world know them better."

 

 

 

 

"Mark Tasker from the UK, an ACAP veteran from the beginning of the Agreement, is currently Convenor of the Taxonomy Working Group: “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.”

 

 

 

Anton Wolfaardt, based in South Africa, is the current Co-convenor of the Seabird Bycatch Working Group.  His view follows:  “Albatrosses are truly remarkable birds, highly adept at soaring effortlessly in the stormy expanses of the oceans, where they spend the majority of their time.  Unfortunately, these birds are facing a conservation crisis; they are threatened by human activities both at sea and at their breeding colonies.  World Albatross Day will help raise awareness of this crisis and galvanise action to address it.  This is essential if we are to improve the conservation status of these wonderful birds.”

 

 

Within the ACAP community support for a World Albatross Day has also come from past office holders; several of whom are still active within the agreement in various ways (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 November 2019

It’s complicated. Corticosterone levels in Campbell and Grey-headed Albatrosses

Caitlin Kroeger (Department of Ocean Sciences, Long Marine Lab, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, USA) and colleagues have published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology on a hormonal study of Campbell Thalassarche impavida and Grey-headed T. chrysostoma Albatrosses from Campbell Island, New Zealand

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Corticosterone (CORT) is a glucocorticoid hormone that maintains energy balance and can modulate foraging behaviors in seabirds.  However, CORT responses are not always predictable under similar biophysical conditions and do not necessarily influence the same behaviors across breeding stages and species.  To enhance our understanding of CORT’s role as a proximate determinant of foraging behavior and energy maintenance, we examined the relationships between body condition, CORT, foraging behavior, and foraging success between two sympatric breeding albatross species with differing foraging strategies and life histories, the Campbell albatross (Thalassarache [sic] impavida) and the gray-headed albatross (Thalassarache chrysostoma), from Campbell Island, New Zealand.  Pre- and postforaging CORT did not differ between species or stage, potentially as a result of behavioral plasticity or different functional roles of CORT across stages.  Unexpectedly, body condition did not correlate with preforaging CORT during incubation, although a negative correlation was observed in Campbell albatrosses during the guard stage.  Furthermore, CORT mediated foraging success in both species and stages, but CORT mediated foraging behavior only in incubation-stage Campbell albatrosses that had shorter foraging ranges with higher pretrip CORT. Additionally, CORT positively correlated with mass gain and the time elapsed since the last feeding event in guard-stage albatrosses.  Our results highlight the complexity of CORT in mediating energy balance in free-ranging animals.  Our results also support that if CORT is to be usefully interpreted, breeding stage must be considered because the physiological and behavioral functionality of CORT may differ across stages, with enhanced sensitivity to energy reserves during chick rearing.”

 

A Campbell Albatross preens its downy chick on Campbell Island, photograph by David Evans

Reference:

Kroeger, C., Crocker, D.E., Thompson, D.R., Torres, L.G., Sagar, P. & Shaffer, S.A. 2019.  Variation in corticosterone levels in two species of breeding albatrosses with divergent life histories: responses to body condition and drivers of foraging behaviour.  Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 92: 223-238.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 November 2019.

Off-leash dogs and feral cats slaughter Wedge-tailed Shearwaters on a Hawaiian island

Some 140-150 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters Ardenna pacifica have been reported killed by off-lead dogs or feral cats during this year’s breeding season on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.  According to the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources (DNLR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife the most recent incident was of at least 35 birds, mostly chicks close to fledging, with carcasses spread along coastal cliffs, including of some breeding adults.

“Six years ago, DLNR says 80 shearwaters were killed by cats and dogs over a two-month period.  Although many shearwaters are killed every year on the Garden Isle, DLNR said this year has been particularly bad, with four reported mass killings at separate locations.  In another incident at a separate colony on the south shore, at least 55 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were killed."

“These kinds of incidents happen annually, and our shearwaters cannot withstand such a high level of predation,” said Andre Raine, KESRP [Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project] Coordinator in a statement. “We urge people to keep their dogs on leashes in coastal areas and keep their cats indoors."

 

ACAP Latest News has previously reported on free-running dogs and feral cats killing Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis on Kauai (click here).

View a video clip and read more here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 November 2019

Sooty Shearwaters doing well on Kidney Island in the South Atlantic

Sooty Shearwater, photograph by West Coast Penguin Trust

Paulo Catry (Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Lisbon, Portugal) and colleagues have published in the journal Polar Biology on changes in breeding numbers of Near Threatened Sooty Shearwaters Ardenna grisea and other seabirds on a tussac island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Detecting change is necessary for effective ecosystem management, yet temporal data on key ecosystem components are lacking for many polar and subpolar regions.  For example, although the Falkland Islands hosts internationally important marine and coastal bird populations, few of these were surveyed until the late twentieth century.  The avifauna of one small island, Kidney Island, was surveyed between 1958 and 1963, however.  This typical tussac-covered island has remained free of non-native predators, so changes in its avifauna may reflect variation in the wider marine environment.  In order to obtain a rare snapshot of such changes, we re-surveyed Kidney Island’s avifauna between 2017 and 2019, counting either individuals, breeding pairs or nest sites of marine and coastal waterbirds.  Waterfowl, waders and cormorant populations were broadly stable, but several populations showed profound differences over the six decades between surveys.  In particular, Southern Rockhopper penguins Eudyptes chrysocome collapsed from > 3000 to 200 pairs, while Sooty Shearwaters Ardenna grisea expanded by two orders of magnitude.  Due to its isolation and tight fisheries management, the Falklands marine environment is assumed to be relatively pristine.  Our limited results suggest that sufficient changes may nevertheless have occurred in the region’s marine ecosystem to have detectable impacts on breeding seabirds.”

Reference:

Catry, P., Clark, T.J., Crofts, S., Stanworth, A., Wakefield, E.D. 2019.  Changes and consistencies in marine and coastal bird numbers on Kidney Island (Falkland Islands) over half a century.  Polar Biology 42: 2171-2176.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 November 2019

Pacific Rim Conservation to host a Seabird Translocation Workshop in Hawaii next year

Pacific Rim Conservation will host a free three-day workshop on seabird translocation and social attraction on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu over 19-21 May 2020.  The number of participants will be limited to 25.

The emphasis will be on “the nuts and bolts of field-based translocation techniques.  Participants will learn relevant background needed during the classroom component (1 day), and then get basic training in avian husbandry, diet preparation, and hand feeding techniques during the field-based component (1-2 days).  The goal of this workshop is to increase capacity for organizations to conduct seabird translocations in new locations and species worldwide,”

One day of lectures from Hawaiian and New Zealand experts in Honolulu will be followed by two days of field work in the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu’s north shore covering diet preparation; food storage; seabird handling; weighing, and measuring; feeding; and cleaning, sanitation and husbandry practices.

The 2018 cohort of translocated Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes chicks soon after arrival at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph from Pacific Rim Conservation

Click here for the workshop schedule, including information on talks and presenters, and how to apply.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 November 2019

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