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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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.


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, 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.

Saving seabirds: draft National Light Pollution Guidelines released for comment by Australia

Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy has released for public comment Draft National Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife Including marine turtles, seabirds and migratory shorebirds.  “The National Light Pollution Guidelines aim to raise awareness of the potential impacts of artificial light on wildlife and provide a framework for assessing and managing these impacts around susceptible listed wildlife.”  The 98-page report, dated September 2019, includes a comprehensive list of references, including some published in 2018.

A grounded shearwater below street lights, photograph by Beneharo Rodriguez

Aspects of the guidelines concern assessing and responding to the effects of light pollution on seabirds, whether at sea, or on shore (including at breeding colonies).  A 12-page appendix considers the problem of light pollution affecting seabirds, notably burrowing petrels and shearwaters.  The appendix includes a “Seabird Light Mitigation Toolbox” which lists the most effective measures to reduce light pollution effects following a “comprehensive review” as:

 turning lights off during fledging periods;

 modification of light wavelengths;

 banning external lights and closing window blinds to shield internal lights;

 shielding the light source and preventing upward light spill;

 reducing traffic speed limits and display of warning signs; and

 implementing a rescue programme for grounded birds.

Submissions close on 30 September 2019.  Submissions received after this date will be considered at the Department's discretion.  Click here for information on the submission procedure.

With thanks to Jonathon Barrington.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 September 2019

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.


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

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