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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A Northern Giant Petrel that dies during treatment in Brazil is found to contain plastic

On 24 September the Centro de Recuperação de Animais Marinhos, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (CRAM-FURG) received a Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli (see below) rescued by the Department of Environment, Santa Vitória Do Palmar, the southernmost municipality in Brazil (click here).

The petrel died during treatment.  During a following necropsy to determine the cause of death a large number of plastic fragments was found in the gastro-intestinal deal tract (see photo below).

CRAM-FURG (Centre for Recovery of Marine Animals) is a hospital dedicated to the rehabilitation of animals, including seabirds, seals and turtles found in Rio Grande do Sul.  The centre reports increasing levels of ingested plastic in treated animals.

Click here to access other posts to ACAP Latest News that describe more cases of giant petrels ingesting plastic objects, as well as latex balloons.

With thanks to Projeto Albatroz, photographs from CRAM-FURG.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 31 October 2019

Tracked Amsterdam Island albatrosses travel outside the surrounding EEZ MPA and overlap with high-seas longliners

Harine Heerah (Centre d'Etude Biologique de Chizé, Villers-en-Bois, France) and colleagues have published in the journal Biological Conservation on tracking Amsterdam Albatrosses Diomedea amsterdamensis, Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetria fusca, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses Thalassarche carteri and Northern Rockhopper Penguins Eudyptes moseleyi at sea from Amsterdam Island in relation to longline fishing effort and marine protected areas.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“In the Southern Ocean, the impact of environmental changes and increasing human encroachment is causing declines in several populations of seabirds.  Amsterdam island (77°33′E; 37°50′S) hosts some emblematic but globally threatened seabird species with alarming population trends. In 2017, concerns about Amsterdam Island's marine biodiversity led to the extension of a marine reserve to the boundaries of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Nevertheless, it is unknown whether this protected area is sufficiently large to encompass the most important foraging hotspots of the threatened seabirds, particularly during key stages of their life cycle (e.g. breeding period). We analysed movements of four threatened seabird species using a tracking dataset acquired over several breeding seasons from Amsterdam Island: Amsterdam albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis, sooty albatross Phoebetria fusca, Indian yellow-nosed albatross Thalassarche carteri and northern rockhopper penguin Eudyptes moseleyi. Our objectives were threefold: (1) characterise the at-sea distribution of the above-mentioned populations and delineate the marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (mIBAs) triggered by them; (2) assess the potential threat at-sea by quantifying the overlap between seabird distribution and longline fishing efforts; (3) evaluate the coverage of identified mIBAs by marine protected areas and suggest complementary conservation actions. The identified important areas fell within the boundaries of the EEZ, but vastly exceeded the former reserve. Thus, our results reinforce the justification of the recent expansion of the reserve to the boundaries of the EEZ. However, overall seabird distributions extended beyond the EEZ (5 to 50% of the locations) and we found substantial overlap with longline fishing in the high seas. Our results provide a spatio-temporal envelope of where and when bycatch mitigation and observer coverage of longline fisheries should be mandated and enforced.”

Amsterdam Albatross at sea off Amsterdam Island, photograph by Kirk Zufelt


Heerah, K., Dias, M.P., Delord, K., Oppel, S., Barbraud, C., Weimerskirch, H. & Bost, C.A. 2019.  Important areas and conservation sites for a community of globally threatened marine predators of the Southern Indian Ocean.  Biological Conservation 234: 192-201.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 October 2019

The Australasian Seabird Group lends its support to World Albatross Day's inauguration in 2020

The Australasian Seabird Group (ASG) is a special-interest group of Birds Australia, the country partner of BirdLife International.  It was formed in 1971 and is managed in collaboration with the Ornithological Society of New Zealand (Birds New Zealand).  The ASG is a society of seabird researchers, managers and individuals dedicated to the study, enjoyment and conservation of seabirds and their habitats.

Australasian Seabird Group logo: a White-faced Storm Petrel Pelagodroma marina

The Group’s objective is to “promote seabird research and conservation in Australasia”.  This objective is pursued through a range of activities, including publication (from 2010) of a quarterly e-bulletin distributed to members, organisation of symposia on issues affecting seabirds, provision of expert opinion on the management and conservation of seabird populations in Australasia, and the coordination of projects including surveys of seabird islands and beach patrol projects.

The ASG is managed by Executive and General Committees.  Correspondence between ACAP Latest News and several committee members has led to the group lending its support to ACAP’s intention to launch the inaugural World Albatross Day next year on 19 June, the date the Agreement was signed in Canberra, Australia in 2001.  Both Australia and New Zealand are Parties to the Agreement as founding signatories (click here).


The Convener of the ASG’s Executive Committee, Barry Baker has written to ACAP Latest News: “Many albatrosses and petrels are threatened with extinction and only slight increases in the mortality of adults can rapidly reduce populations within a couple of decades.  In a world where there is a focus on the sustainability of extractive industries it behoves fishers and fishery managers to take all necessary steps to reduce the impacts of their activities on non-target species, including seabirds.”








    The ASG’s Secretary, Nicholas Carlile writes as follows: “World Albatross Day is an opportunity to celebrate all that is amazing, humbling and beautiful about this enigmatic group of seabirds.  With so many species close to being lost forever, we must remain vigilant, energetic and forthright in our defence of their survival and ability to flourish in our changing world."

Photo: On Mount Gower, Lord Howe Island, with Vulnerable Providence Petrels Pterodroma solandri overhead





Kerry-Jayne Wilson MNZM who represents New Zealand on the ASG’s General Committee has also expressed her concern: “Albatrosses and other seabirds are under threat, and climate change will further intensify that threat.  Imagine a world without these magnificent birds, is that the legacy we want to leave for generations to come?”

Photo: With King Penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus, Volunteer Point, Fakland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*





ACAP will liaise with the Australasian Seabird Group over the next seven months to raise awareness of World Albatross Day and the plight faced by albatrosses, especially within Australia and New Zealand and in their waters.

Endangered Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis off Kaikoura, New Zealand; photograph by Kerry-Jayne Wilson

With thanks to Barry Baker, Nicholas Carlile and Kerry-Jayne Wilson

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 November 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.

Foraging ecology of Short-tailed Shearwater study earns a PhD for Natalie Bool

Natalie Bool (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia) has completed her PhD thesis on Short-tailed Shearwaters Ardenna tenuirostris.

The thesis abstract follows:

“Climate induced variability of prey abundance and its’ distribution, is a dominant factor regulating marine predator lifetime reproductive success and population viability. Seabirds are long-lived and they have evolved life-history traits such as delayed sexual maturity and intermittent breeding that buffer them against environmental variability. However, some species that have restricted dietary and range niches may be more sensitive to persistent negative climate perturbations. Therefore, gaining an understanding of how climate variability affects foraging ecology and reproductive parameters will be imperative if we are to determine the viability of seabird populations into the future. Doing so is important given the predictions that the Earth’s climate will continue to change at an accelerated rate in the coming century.

This thesis investigated whether the short-tailed shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris), an abundant seabird of the Southern Ocean, will be resilient in a rapidly changing environment. The foraging behaviour of short-tailed shearwaters from Wedge Island, Tasmania, was assessed over five years (2010 - 2016), and the trophic position of adults during the breeding season was also quantified (2005 - 2008 & 2012 - 2015) as were breeding parameters; breeding effort and success (2004 - 2016). This thesis aimed to 1) examine the non-breeding movements of short-tailed shearwaters and assess within-season foraging plasticity; 2) determine the influence of climate on the trophic position of adults during the breeding season; and 3) assess foraging movements in relation to environmental variability and whether this influenced breeding participation and success, and the mass of fledglings.

(1) Post-breeding, birds selected foraging sites in distinct regions of the Northern Hemisphere, the Sea of Okhotsk/North Pacific Ocean, and the southeast Bering Sea/North Pacific Ocean. Birds spent between 15% and 99% (62.8 ± 20) of the non-breeding season in these core foraging areas. An additional late season foraging region in the Chukchi Sea was utilised by 50% of tracked individuals. Birds that were tracked for consecutive winters (n = 8) returned to the same core foraging site, but the time they spent there varied between years. Having a hierarchical strategy, where individuals return to familiar areas but disperse when environmental conditions deteriorate would allow short-tailed shearwaters to buffer some of the effects that climate variability has on the distribution and abundance of prey. This is important as environmental conditions (sea surface temperature and sea surface height) vary between regions within and among years; and these regions are undergoing protracted change. Consequently, foraging flexibility may allow short-tailed shearwaters to better adapt to climate induced environmental change.

(2) The trophic level of short-tailed shearwaters during the breeding season was determined using two complimentary techniques, bulk stable isotope analysis (SIA) and compound specific stable isotope analysis of amino acids (AA-CSIA). While there were consistent seasonal trends in the feeding zones birds used within the Southern Ocean, there was little variability in the trophic position of the prey adults consumed during long-trips within or among years.

(3) The foraging movements of breeding birds were examined during both chick provisioning trips (short-trips) and when adults undertook extended trips into the Southern Ocean (long-trips). Whilst provisioning chicks, adults foraged within the shallow continental waters surrounding Wedge Island but undertook extended multi-day trips within the Southern Ocean when self-provisioning. When the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) was negative, adults travelled further and spent less time foraging, most likely because primary productivity was supressed in the regions, which birds travelled to during long-trips. Both the number of birds that engaged in breeding activities and breeding success varied considerably during the study period. Interestingly, climate variability was not found to influence the number of birds that bred, or breeding success. However, chicks fledged with lighter body masses when local sea surface temperature was warmer and when the SAM was positive. Such conditions could cause change in the distribution and abundance of the prey, which probably reduces the amount of energy chicks receive, resulting in reduced body mass at fledging.

By integrating information on the foraging distribution of short-tailed shearwaters throughout the annual cycle, in addition to the analysis of trends in the trophic level of prey consumed by breeding adults and the incorporation of intrinsic rates of breeding participation and success, this thesis provides important insights into how this abundant seabird deals with change in the distribution and availability of its resources. By having an extended foraging range and a flexible foraging strategy means that this species can better deal with changes in the environment compared to seabirds that have a restricted foraging range and narrow dietary niche. Nonetheless, the change in the functioning of the marine environment has the potential to reduce the size of short-tailed shearwater populations by increasing the rate of intermittent breeding and by reducing chick survival post-fledging.”


Sooty Shearwater at sea, photograph by Peter Ryan

Note the full thesis text is not available for request/download until 6 July 2020.


Bool, N.M. 2019.  The foraging ecology of the short-tailed shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris): life-history strategies and climate change.  PhD thesis, University of Tasmania, Hobart.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 October 2019

Antarctic Marine Ecosystem Futures Scientific Conference, Moscow, May 2020

The Antarctic Marine Ecosystem Futures Scientific Conference will be held in Moscow, Russia over 13-15 May 2020.

“The goal of the Conference is to foster collaboration between scientists studying Antarctic marine ecosystems to inform policy and to highlight the role of collaborative science in Antarctica.  During the Conference the participants will discuss the state of, and emerging threats to the Antarctic marine ecosystems; key challenges; and possible solutions.”

White-phase Southern Giant Petrel, Signy Island, maritime Antarctica, photograph by Michael Dunn

Main topics:

Scientific research in Antarctica: history, achievements, gaps, challenges and opportunities

Collaboration: examples of previous collaboration and ways to collaborate in the future

Antarctic marine ecosystems: structure and functioning

Changes and challenges for Antarctic marine ecosystems: climate change, invasive species, human activities

Antarctic krill: science, management and conservation

Marine mammals and seabirds: ecology, distribution, trends and challenges

Solutions and conservation measures including Marine Protected Areas, the role of science and the scientific community.

Languages for the conference will be Russian and English with simultaneous translation.

Read more here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 October 2019

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