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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Southern Giant Petrels appear to be on the rise in the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas*

Andrew Stanworth and Sarah Crofts (Falklands Conservation, Stanley) published online in 2017 a report on a 2015/16 survey of breeding sites of the Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.

The report’s summary follows:

“A survey of key breeding sites of Southern Giant Petrels (Macronectes giganteus) within the Falkland Islands was undertaken in 2015/16.  The minimum breeding population of the Islands was estimated to be 20,970 ± 180 pairs, an increase of 7.4 % since the previous census in 2004/05.  Sixteen breeding sites were confirmed, supporting a minimum of 21 colonies/breeding areas; however, this figure does not account for likely additional small groups or single pairs breeding around the coasts, which were not surveyed.  Based on the previous census, these small groups (constituting less than 0.5 % of the total estimated figure in 2004/05) are unlikely to significantly influence the overall population estimate.  The current Falkland estimate would increase the global population estimate by 1441 breeding pairs to 48,239 breeding pairs; of which the Falklands would comprise approximately 43 %.

Of the ten key breeding sites (Key Sites) for this species at the Falklands, five had decreased, four had increased (one based on a partial count) and one remained only partially surveyed. Changes in breeding pairs at colonies ranged from a reduction of 754 pairs to an increase of 1554 pairs.  Percentage change at colonies ranged between a reduction of 100 % (i.e. no colony now present), to an increase of 245 %.  Average change over the eight Key Sites with complete counts was an increase by 1.6 % ± 65.3 %.  The total count for sites other than Key Sites had increased by 744 pairs (57 %) since the 2004/05 census.

Major threats remain to be human disturbance and fisheries by-catch, both within the Falklands EEZ, but likely more significantly beyond it.  Uncertainties around other threats, such as climatic changes/El Niño and increasing evidence of plastic ingestion in seabirds remain unknown for this species in the Islands.  Population monitoring through two Island surveys (2004/05 and 2015/16), as well as annual monitoring since 2006, point towards a stable, but likely increasing breeding population of Southern Giant Petrels in the Falkland Islands.”

 

Breeding Southern Giant Petrel on Steeple Jason Island, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*; photograph by Ian Strange

With thanks to Andrew Stanforth and to Megan Tierney for bringing the report to my attention.

Reference:

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.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 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.

The Hawaiian island of Molokai is to get a predator-proof fence around a Laysan Albatross attraction site

The American Bird Conservancy and the Molokai Land Trust aim to construct a predator-proof fence at the Mokio Preserve on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.  The purpose of the fence is to provide protection to rare native plants and breeding seabirds at a dune restoration site on the Anapuka Peninsula within the 695-ha preserve on the north-west coast of the island (click here).

The black dashed line in the Mokio Preserve marks the line of the planned predator-proof fence; map from the Molokai Land Trust

The 2-m high fence will be 1.7 km long and will encompass 36 ha; both fence ends will be on sea cliff edges.  It will come with a fine mesh, a ground-level skirt and a hood, following predator-proof fences erected in New Zealand and on two other Hawaiian islands (Oahu and Kauai).  It is aimed to keep out rodents, mongooses and feral cats, as well as introduced Axis Deer or Chital Axis axis and domestic dogs.  An existing deer fence will be removed once the new fence is up.  Vehicular and pedestrian access will be by way of several gates.

The predator-proof fence in the James Campbell Wildlife Refuge on the Hawaiian island of Oahu: the planned fence on Molokai will be of a similar design

Photograph by Pacific Rim Conservation

The area to be enclosed is where attempts are already being made, by way of decoys and broadcasts of pre-recorded calls, to attract Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis in the expectation they will commence breeding (click here).  A new colony will be out of the reach of an expected sea-level rise that will impact breeding Laysan Albatrosses on the low-lying Hawaiian islands of the North-Western chain.  Landings by Laysan Albatrosses within the restoration site have been recorded over the past several years.

Read a news article about the fencing plans here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 September 2019

Chile makes seabird mitigation measures in its trawling fisheries mandatory

The Undersecretariat for Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Government of Chile has proclaimed Resolution No. 2941 “Establish Management Measures to Reduce Incidental Catches of Seabirds in the Trawl Fisheries” of 28 August 2019 that makes adoption of defined seabird mitigation measures and good practices in trawling fisheries mandatory.

The resolution requires the adoption of management measures aimed at avoiding or minimizing the incidental catch of seabirds in various types of trawl fisheries carried out in waters under national jurisdiction or on the high seas by vessels flying the Chilean flag, through the mandatory use of equipment or devices and compliance with the best fishing practices set out in the resolution.

The required mitigation measures (in unofficial translation) include the deployment of twin bird-scaring lines (BSLs), at least 30 m long and with brightly coloured streamers (in certain fisheries and conditions bird bafflers may be used instead).  In addition, nets must be cleaned before shooting.  At night time the use or BSLs or Bird Bafflers may be dispensed with.  A snatch block must be installed on the stern of the vessel to reduce the height of radiosonde cables when used.  In certain defined trawl fisheries net binding is required to minimize the time the net is on the surface, by increasing it sink rate and diminishing the time of exposure when it can interact with seabirds.  Discard management includes avoiding discarding during trawls and an overall reduction in the at-sea disposal of fish waste.

Bird-scaring line (BSL) design for Chilean trawlers - from Resolution No. 2941

Valeria Carvajal, Managing Director, Federation of Fishing Industries of the Austral Seas writes: “In our view, this resolution provides explicit measures which are in the line with ACAP's best practices and we are hopeful it could help to reduce even more the incidental mortality of seabirds in our fishing operations.  The scientific observer programme carried out by IFOP (Instituto de Fomento Pesquero) together with the monitoring system through on-board cameras on all industrial vessels, will provide a broad observation of all fishing activity, including incidental mortality of seabirds.”

The new resolution follows on from Chile adopting its National Action Plan to Reduce Incidental Catches of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (PAN-AM/Chile).

Read of an earlier initiative by the Association of Industrial Fisheries of Chile (Asociación de Industriales Pesqueros, ASIPES) along with BirdLife International’s Marine Programme (BIMP) to reduce seabird bycatch.

With thanks to Marcelo Garcia Alvarado, Subsecretaría de Pesca y Acuicultura (SUBPESCA) and Member for Chile, ACAP Advisory Committee, and Karin Mundnich, Unidad de Asuntos Internacionales, Subsecretaria de Pesca and ACAP National Contact for Chile.

Reference:

[Chile 2007]. Plan de Acción Nacional para Reducir la Capturas Incidentales de Aves en las Pesquerías de Palangre.  38 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 September 2019

France's Amsterdam Island joins the Word Albatross Day ‘Banner Challenge’

Jérémy Dechartre, CNRS-CEBC ornithologist and marine mammologist currently based on France’s Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean with the 70th Mission on the project "Birds and Marine Mammals, Sentinels of Global Changes in the Southern Ocean", has joined ACAP’s ‘Banner Challenge’ that aims to increase awareness of the inauguration of an annual World Albatross Day (‘WAD’) on 19 June next year.

Along with two colleagues, Jérémy climbed to the World Heritage island’s Plateau des Tourbières (Important Bird Area TF006) at its centre from its base Martin de Viviès to the sole breeding site of the endemic and Endangered Amsterdam Albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis, where they displayed the posters they had made.

From left: Jérémy Dechartre, Augustin Clessin (ornithologist working on eco-epidemiology) and Édouard Blandin (atmospheric chemist working on greenhouse gases) display their World Albatross Day posters a safe distance from a downy Amsterdam Albatross chick on 26 August

Photograph by Édouard Blandin, Institut Polaire Français

Jérémy writes to Michelle Risi of ACAP’s World Albatross Day Intersessional Working Group who is coordinating the banner challenge: “We started taking pictures for the WAD.  We will take the next photos in October with Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses [Thalassarche carteri] and Sooty Albatrosses [Phoebetria fusca]".

Background

At its most recent Advisory Committee meeting ACAP decided to inaugurate a World Albatross Day, to be held on 19 June each year - the date the Agreement was signed in Canberra in 2001.  ACAP will be spending the period until 19 June next year advertising World Albatross Day via social media and in other ways, so that come the day interested communities around the world can start to become involved with activities, events, media releases and the like.

As part of publicizing World Albatross Day prior to its inauguration, field teams working with albatrosses at breeding localities have been requested to make a suitably-worded banner or poster advertising the 19 June event to draw attention to the birds’ conservation crisis.  The banner would then be photographed with the field workers in a suitable setting in the vicinity of breeding albatrosses (but not too close as to disturb them).  Gough and Bird Islands in the South Atlantic were the first to rise to the challenge, now joined by France’s Amsterdam.  Banner photographs from more albatross islands are expected as breeding seasons get underway.

With thanks to Jérémy Dechartre (Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé coordinated and supported by the Institut Polaire Français Paul-Emile Victor) and Michelle Risi, Gough Island.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 September 2019

Current monitoring programmes not good enough to detect population changes in Manx Shearwaters

Gavin Arneill (School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University College Cork, Ireland,) and colleagues have published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE on sampling strategies for breeding Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus (Least Concern).

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Sampling approaches used to census and monitor populations of flora and fauna are diverse, ranging from simple random sampling to complex hierarchal stratified designs. Usually the approach taken is determined by the spatial and temporal distribution of the study population, along with other characteristics of the focal species. Long-term monitoring programs used to assess seabird population trends are facilitated by their high site fidelity, but are often hampered by large and difficult to access colonies, with highly variable densities that require intensive survey. We aimed to determine the sampling effort required to (a) estimate population size with a high degree of confidence, and (b) detect different scenarios of population change in a regionally important species in the Atlantic, the Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus). Analyses were carried out using data collected from tape-playback surveys on four islands in the North Atlantic. To explore how sampling effort influenced confidence around abundance estimates, we used the heuristic approach of imagining the areas sampled represented the total population, and bootstrapped varying proportions of subsamples. This revealed that abundance estimates vary dramatically when less than half of all plots (n dependent on the size of the site) is randomly subsampled, leading to an unacceptable lack of confidence in population estimates. Confidence is substantially improved using a multi-stage stratified approach based on previous information on distribution in the colonies. In reality, this could lead to reducing the number of plots required by up to 80%. Furthermore, power analyses suggested that random selection of monitoring plots using a matched pairs approach generates little power to detect overall population changes of 10%, and density-dependent changes as large as 50%, because variation in density between plots is so high. Current monitoring programs have a high probability of failing to detect population-level changes due to inappropriate sampling efforts. Focusing sampling in areas of high density with low plot to plot variance dramatically increases the power to detect year to year population change, albeit at the risk of not detecting increases in low density areas, which may be an unavoidable strategy when resources are limited. We discuss how challenging populations with similar features to seabirds might be censused and monitored most effectively.”

A Manx Shearwater chick close to fledging at its burrow mouth, photograph by Jaclyn Pearson

Reference:

Arneill, G.E., Perrins, C.M., Wood, M.J., Murphy, D., Pisani, L., Jessopp, M.J. & Quinn, J.L. 2019.  Sampling strategies for species with high breeding-site fidelity: a case study in burrow-nesting seabirds.  PLoS ONE 14(8): e0221625. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0221625.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 September 2019

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