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ACAP works towards increasing awareness of the inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June

Michelle Risi Sooties Gough.1

Michelle Risi in front of breeding Sooty Albatrosses with Gough Island's WAD2020 Banner

Activities of the World Albatross Day Intersessional Group established at last year’s meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee have to date been concentrated on increasing awareness of the day within ACAP Parties and selected countries via the Agreement’s website and Facebook page and by correspondence with NGOs/NPOs and individuals involved with research on and/or the conservation of albatrosses.

WAD Logo

Short statements of support in the form of quotes have been received from 96 out of c. 150 individuals approached, covering a broad field of disciplines and including artists and authors of books on albatrosses.  They are being posted for roughly five days at a time to the ACAP website’s homepage and are also grouped thematically and posted to ACAP Latest News.

Longer statements of support of WAD2020 received to date from 16 national and international organizations, including six BirdLife national partners in ACAP Party countries, have been posted to this website.  To increase awareness of WAD2020 further, these organizations are being requested to share ACAP’s posts to their own social media outlets.

A ‘WAD2020 Banner Challenge’ has so far obtained photographs of home-made banners or equivalents in all three ACAP official languages from 10 breeding islands and one trawler at sea; more are promised.  These have all been featured on the website.

A collaboration with ABUN (Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature) this and next month is leading to high-quality photographs and artwork being made available for ACAP’s use and will culminate in a poster and a short video with accompanying music made by ABUN for ACAP, along with one-page summaries of the biology and conservation of the 22 albatross species now being written by the Information Officer.  It is intended for the summaries to be available in French and Spanish, as well as in English.

A WAD2020 poster has been designed pro bono by renowned wildlife illustrator Owen Davey; also produced pro bono have been a WAD2020 logo and a cartoon series in four languages by Marc Parchow of Qual Albatroz.  The involvement of Michelle Risi with the first two products has been invaluable.

All the above products will be made freely available for activities and events at and around 19 June via a special World Albatross Day section on the ACAP website, currently being populated.  Offers of further support and ideas for WAD2020 will be appreciated!

John Cooper, Secretary, ACAP Word Albatross Day Intersessional Working Group, 29 January 2020

Crossing the Equator: the WAD2020 Banner Challenge reaches Midway Atoll

Banners to help raise awareness of this year’s inauguration of World Albatross Day on 19 June have been made and photographed by researchers on nine breeding islands so far, all in the southern hemisphere.  But albatrosses also breed north of the Equator, so ACAP Latest News is delighted to have received a contribution to the WAD2020 Banner Challenge from across the Equator.

Caren Loebel-Fried is already known to ACAP Latest News for her 2017 children’s book A Perfect Day for an Albatross, which is illustrated with her own artwork.  Caren has been volunteering on Midway Atoll in the North Pacific recently, helping with the annual count of incubating Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses (and the solitary pair of Short-tailed Albatrosses) on behalf of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  The count can take a month or so - no small task with a combined population of well over a million birds frequenting the atoll!

Midway is perhaps not the easiest place to make a banner, but Caren at short notice was able to make a sign which she and her  fellow volunteer counters took to Eastern Island, the smaller, uninhabited (by humans) island within the atoll, for a day’s counting on 3 January.  The ensuing photos shows there is no compelling need to make a professional-looking banner to get across the message – especially when there is a team of enthusiastic albatross volunteers (led by Midway veterans Martha Brown, Jill McIntire and Breck Tyler) holding their tally counters aloft to fill the frame!  Caren writes that the gun on Eastern Island that appears in one of the photos here is of WWI vintage and was not part of the Battle of Midway that helped turn the tide in the Pacific during the Second World War.

Midway Atoll Eastern Island Albatross Census 2020 1 shrunk

From left: Caren Loebel-Fried (who took the “ussie”), Craig Thomas, Martha Brown, Breck Tyler, Maura Naughton and Susan Scott

Midway Atoll Eastern Island Albatross Census 2020 2 shrunk 

From left: Dan Cullinane, Breck Tyler, Caren Loebel-Fried, Martha Brown, Kerstin Schmidt, Genny Hoyle, Susan Scott, Jill McIntire, Tanya Rogers, Chris Forster and Louise Barnfield

Photograph by Craig Thomas

With thanks to Caren Loebel-Fried, who acknowledges help with information by Martha Brown and support received from the Friends of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.  The annual albatross counts on Midway are supported by Steve Barclay, Tim Clark and Beth Flint (USFWS).  Other groups on Midway monitoring long-term study plots to track reproductive success and adult survival of albatrosses include Kupu members (Hawaiian Americorps) and six-month volunteers, Kelly Goodale, USFWS and Jon Plissner, Island Conservation.

Reference:

Brown, M. 2019.  Midway: between an ark and a hard place.  Bird Conservation Summer 2019: 12-19.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 January 2020

Wandering Albatrosses bounce back (a bit) on Australia’s Macquarie Island

Last austral summer (2018/19) only three eggs were laid by the globally Vulnerable Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans, the lowest recorded in a 25-year monitoring programme, on Australia’s sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island (a World Heritage-status Nature Reserve) by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE).

“This year 10 eggs have been laid, which is the highest in a decade.  In the 2008/09 summer 13 eggs were laid, but since then the average has been less than six.  While several eggs this season were laid by experienced breeders with well-formed partner bonds, there are also a number of newly established breeding pairs and first-time breeders, some of which were chicks from the comparatively bumper 2008/09 season.  The first chicks will begin to hatch in March - we will be very keen to see how many are successful.”

Macca Melanie Wells

Macca Wanderer pair Melanie Wells

Macca Wanderers Melanie Wells

Information and photographs courtesy of DPIPWE Ranger Melanie Wells via the Marine Conservation Program Facebook page.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 January 2020.Three photographers donate use of their albatross images to support ACAP and World Albatross Day

Oikonos talks to ACAP Latest News on its "Winged Ambassadors: Ocean Literacy Through the Eyes of Albatross” programme and World Albatross Day

The mission of the international non-profit organization Oikonos – Ecosystem Knowledge is to study and protect imperilled ecosystems by engaging diverse communities through innovative scientific and artistic collaborations.  Its area of interest is concentrated in the Pacific, where it works with seabirds in Chile, California, Hawaii and Washington.

Michelle Hester is a co-founder of Oikonos and its Executive Director.  She brings over 25 years of research and applied conservation experience throughout the Pacific to the organization.  Her research focuses on island ecology, seabird prey dynamics and habitat restoration with an emphasis on inter-disciplinary approaches.  She has written this month to ACAP Latest News about some of the work of her organization:

“Oikonos works with partners to conserve albatrosses through bycatch, marine debris ingestion and at-sea tracking research in the North Pacific.  We also honour albatrosses as powerful teaching ambassadors.  The classroom programme "Winged Ambassadors: Ocean Literacy Through the Eyes of Albatross" has inspired over 320 000 students in 38 countries.  It is hopeful to learn that anyone can take individual and collective actions to ensure these majestic charismatic birds continue to traverse our oceans and our imaginations.  We support World Albatross Day on 19 June."

 

Michelle Hester Oikonos leadership 2018 Sue Scott mural

Oikonos' senior management team meets below a Sue Scott artwork made from lighters swallowed by Laysan Albatrosses

Michelle Hester is front row second left; Veronica López is front row, fourth left

Michelle expands on Oikonos’ innovative classroom programme which provides a hands-on experience: “Albatrosses, charismatic and threatened seabirds, are ambassadors for a clean ocean because they traverse vast oceanic regions searching for floating food.  Along their journeys, albatross ingest plastic trash and feed it to their chicks.  As part of the digestive process, the chicks throw up pellets, known as “boluses” to rid themselves of fish bones, squid beaks and alarmingly our plastic trash.  Exploring the contents of albatross boluses has proven to be an impactful, and often life-changing experience for students of all ages because students witness, touch and examine the marine debris that animals are consuming.”  Michelle adds it’s hoped to get a World Albatross Day banner displayed in a classroom with students engaged with the project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A  bolus containing pieces of plastic (above)

A Black-footed Albatross chick with regurgitated boluses at its feet (right)

Oikonos and its partners carry out necropsies on albatrosses killed by U.S. fisheries, studying such aspects as diet, plastic ingestion and gender-biased mortality (click here).  Working with other collaborators, at-sea GPS tracking of Black -footed Albatrosses Phoebastria nigripes (globally Near Threatened) has been undertaken from Kure Atoll, the westernmost island in the Hawaiian Archipelago.

Students dissect albatross boluses, removing and counting plastic fragments and squid beaks; photograph from Malama Pupukea Waimea with parental permission

A significant link between Oikonos and ACAP is that its Fishery Bycatch and Isla Mocha Programme Manager is Veronica López who has attended ACAP meetings as part of the Chilean Delegation and currently serves as Chair of ACAP’s World Albatross Day Intersessional Group.  Vero is also involved with research and conservation of another ACAP-listed species, the globally Vulnerable Pink-footed Shearwater Ardenna creatopus – a Chilean endemic.  In addition she serves the Grupo de Trabajo de Aves Marinas de Chile (Chilean Seabird Working Group) as its President.  The group made up of scientists advises SUBPESCA (Subsecretaría de Pesca y Acuicultura) on issues related to seabird bycatch.

View Oikonos' 2018/19 Annual Report here.

With thanks to Michelle Hester, Veronica López and Ilana Nimz.

References:

Marrero, M., Hester, M., Hyrenbach, K.D., Michael, P., Adams, J., Keiper, C., Stock, J., Collins, A., Vanderlip, C., Alvarez. T. & Webb, S. 2012.  Ocean literacy through the eyes of albatross.  Current. The Journal of Marine Education 28: 26-30.

Nevins, H.M., Beck, J., Michael, P.E., Hester, M., Peschon, J., Donnelly-Greenan, E. & Fitzgerald, S. 2018.  Demographics of Laysan Phoebastria immutabilis and Black-footed P. nigripes Albatross caught as bycatch in Alaskan groundfish and Hawaiian longline fisheries. Marine Ornithology 46: 187-196.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 January 2020

A Southern Royal Albatross dies in captivity after swallowing a half-litre plastic bottle

A juvenile Southern Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora (globally Vulnerable) found in an emaciated condition on Whirinaki Beach near Napier on New Zealand’s South Island last week has died after two days in captivity despite urgent treatment at the Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North.  Its stomach was found to contain a flattened 500-ml plastic water bottle as well as balloon fragments. (click here).

According to the New Zealand Department of Conservation’s Facebook page the autopsy suggests starvation was the likely cause of death, with the plastic items obstructing the stomach.

Southern Royal Albatross plastic bottle DOC 2

Southern Royal Albatross plastic bottle DOC 1

Southern Royal Albatross balloon fragment DOC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The juvenile albatross in captivity (top), the recovered plastic bottle (left) and balloon fragment (right); photographs from the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

ACAP Latest News has reported on many occasions of balloons and plastic objects swallowed by albatrosses of various species, including by closely related Southern Royal Albatross D. sanfordi chicks at Taiaroa Head, but never such an item as a half-litre plastic water bottle.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 January 2020

 

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