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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Plastic ingestion and trace element burden in Short-tailed Shearwaters not related?

Short tailed Shearwater off Noth Cape NZ Kirk Zufelt s 

Short-tailed Shearwater at sea, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

Peter Puskic (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia) and colleagues have published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on the relationship between ingested plastic and trace elements in Short-tailed Shearwaters Ardenna tenuirostris.

The paper's abstract follows:

“Pollution of marine environments is concerning for complex trophic systems.  Two anthropogenic stresses associated with marine pollution are the introduction of marine plastic and their associated chemicals (e.g., trace elements) which, when ingested, may cause harm to wildlife.  Here we explore the relationship between plastic ingestion and trace element burden in the breast muscle of Short-tailed Shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris).  We found no relationship between the amount of plastic ingested and trace element concentration in the birds' tissues.  Though the mass and number of plastic items ingested by birds during 1969–2017 did not change significantly, trace element concentrations of some elements (Cu, Zn, As, Rb, Sr and Cd), appeared to have increased in birds sampled in 2017 compared to limited data from prior studies. We encourage policy which considers the data gleaned from this sentinel species to monitor the anthropogenic alteration of the marine environment.”

Reference:

Puskic, P.S., Lavers, J.L., Adams, L.R, .Bond, A.L. 2020Ingested plastic and trace element concentrations in Short-tailed Shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris).  Marine Pollution Bulletin 155.  doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2020.111143.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 May 2020

Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada, BirdLife national partner, welcomes World Albatross Day 2020

Birds Canada

Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada is one of two BirdLife national partners in that country.  It joins a growing number of BirdLife national partners or affiliates in countries which work actively within the Agreement, either as Parties or as range states for listed species that regularly attend meetings, that have offered their support for the inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June.

Founded in 1960, Birds Canada is a non-profit, charitable organization built on the contributions of 7500 members and nearly 60 000 volunteer citizen scientists.  Its mission is to conserve wild birds through sound science, on-the-ground actions, innovative partnerships, public engagement and science-based advocacy.

ACAP Latest News approached Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada through Steven Price, President, and Pete Davidson, Senior Conservation Advisor who oversees the society’s monitoring and conservation programmes across the country, requesting the society’s support for ‘WAD2020’.  In response, David Bradley, Birds Canada’s Director of its British Columbia Program (and who leads on collaborative work in Pacific Canada on invasive mammal predators of seabirds) writes:

“Many Canadians will not know this, but three albatross species regularly grace the waters of Pacific Canada.  Birds Canada welcomes World Albatross Day to raise awareness of the plight of these magnificent sentinels of the high seas, and their smaller cousins the petrels and shearwaters.  Out of sight to most people, they are key indicators of the health of our oceans and remote islands, they symbolize sustainable fisheries, and many are unfortunately threatened with extinction.”

David Bradley Birds Canada

David Bradley, Director, British Columbia Program, Birds Canada

“Peu de Canadiens le savent: trois espèces d’albatros fréquentent régulièrement nos eaux au large de la côte ouest. Oiseaux Canada souligne la Journée mondiale des albatros, qui a pour but de sensibiliser la population à la situation désespérée de ces magnifiques sentinelles des hautes mers et de leurs cousins plus petits, les pétrels et les puffins. Ces oiseaux que la grande majorité des gens n’ont jamais vus sont des indicateurs clés de l’état des océans et des îles isolées. Ils symbolisent la pêche durable. Malheureusement, bon nombre d’espèces sont menacées de disparition.”

Canada is not a Party to ACAP, but it has attended practically all the Agreement's meetings as an observer and active participant in deliberations since close to the onset of the Agreement.  Ken Morgan, Pelagic Seabird Biologist, Environment and Climate Change Canada, is a long-standing member of ACAP’s Seabird Bycatch and Population & Conservation Status Groups Working Groups and has regularly attended Sessions of the Meeting of the Parties and of its Advisory Committee.

Four ACAP-listed species interact, or have the potential to interact, as non-breeding visitors with Canadian Pacific fisheries; these are Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes, Laysan P. immutabilis and Vulnerable Short-tailed P. albatrus Albatrosses and Vulnerable Pink-footed Shearwaters Ardenna creatopus.

 Black footed Albatross Colleen Laird

Black-footed Albatross in flight, by ABUN artist, Colleen Laird

Canada has produced management or equivalent plans for three of these species, aimed at mitigating mortality from being caught on longline hooks (see references below).

With thanks to David Bradley, Pete Davidson, Colleen Laird, Ken Morgan and Steven Price.

References:

Environment Canada. 2008.  Recovery Strategy for the Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) and the Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) in Canada.  Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series.  Ottawa: Environment Canada.  vii + 46 pp.

Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2017.  Management Plan for the Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) in Canada.  Species at Risk Act Management Plan Series.  Ottawa: Environment and Climate Change Canada. iv + 30 pp. [in French here]

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 April 2020

Feral cats and pigs continue to prey on albatrosses and petrels on Auckland Island

Feral cat on white capped mollymawk Auckland Island. Photo Stephen Bradley 1 shrunk

A feral cat feeds from a White-capped Albatross Thalassarche steadi chick on Auckland Island, August 2019; photograph by Stephen Bradley

(Read more here)

James Russell (School of Biological Sciences and Department of Statistics, University of Auckland, New Zealand) and colleagues have published in the journal Notornis on the impacts of introduced mammals on birds on the Auckland Islands, including ACAP-listed White-capped Albatrosses Thalassarche steadi and White-chinned Procellaria aequinoctialis.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Since the European discovery of the Auckland Islands, at least ten species of land mammals have been introduced there.  Most arrived in the first half of the ninteenth [sic] century during periods of exploitation by sealers and whalers, followed by short-lived Māori and European settlements at Port Ross.  Several species required multiple introductions before becoming blished.  For those populations that naturalised, cattle (Bos taurus) occupied Enderby Island and were eradicated by 1993, goats (Capra aegagrus hircus) remained restricted to the northern end of Auckland Island and were eradicated by 1991, while pigs (Sus scrofa) spread across the entire Auckland Island and remain there today.  Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) established on Rose and Enderby Islands, and were eradicated in 1993.  Cats (Felis catus) and mice (Mus musculus domesticus) were both first recorded in 1840 on Auckland Island and remain there today.  Rats (Rattus spp.) have never established on the Auckland Islands.  Collectively, cattle, goats, sheep (Ovis aries), pigs, and rabbits transformed habitats and altered ecosystem processes, and suppressed tussock, megaherbs, and woody vegetation on Auckland, Enderby, Rose, Ewing, and Ocean Islands.  Cats and pigs are together responsible for the extirpation or major reduction of surface-nesting and burrowing seabird colonies, and ground-nesting land birds from Auckland Island.  Before dying out on Enderby Island, pigs had similar impacts there.  Mice have altered invertebrate community composition and are likely responsible for lower abundancies of wētā (Dendroplectron aucklandense) and large weevils (Curculionidae) on Auckland Island.  Disappointment Island remained free of introduced mammals, while on Adams Island they had only fleeting and minimal impact.  Humans also had direct impacts on birds through hunting for consumption, with large surface-nesting seabirds severely affected around Port Ross.  The Auckland Island merganser (Mergus australis) was driven to extinction by presumed mammal predation and well-documented museum collecting.  Eradication of pigs, cats, and mice from Auckland Island and Masked Island (Carnley Harbour) would remove the last introduced mammals from the New Zealand subantarctic region.”

This publication forms part of a compilation of 19 papers appearing in a special issue of the journal Notornis of Birds New Zealand that covers many aspects of the avifauna of the Auckland Islands.  The special issue is also being made available as a 436-page book with the title Lost Gold: Ornithology of the subantarctic Auckland Islands.  Edited by Colin Miskelly and Craig Symes, it can be ordered for purchase (click here).  An interview with the two editors gives information about their work with the book.  Click here to access abstracts for all 19 papers.

With thanks to Colin Miskelly, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Reference:

Russell, J.C., Horn, S.R., Miskelly, C.M., Sagar, R.L. & Taylor, R.H. 2020.  Introduced land mammals and their impacts on the birds of the subantarctic Auckland Islands.  Notornis 67: 247-268.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 April 2020

The Kure Atoll Conservancy supports the inauguration of World Albatross Day on 19 June

Kure Atoll Conservancy

The Kure Atoll Conservancy is a non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting management programmes that enhance biological diversity, ecosystem health and cultural resources of the Kure Atoll Seabird Sanctuary in the USA’s North-Western Hawaiian Islands.  The NGO works to develop additional funding through proposal writing and donor requests to conduct habitat restoration, pollution prevention, monitoring, education outreach and more.  The contributions of volunteers stationed on the atoll for six-month periods form an essential part of the conservancy’s work (click here).

Kure Atoll (the world's most northerly coral atoll) at the western end of the North-Western Hawaiian Islands supports on its 86-ha Green Island important populations of Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes and Laysan P. immutabilis Albatrosses and of other seabirds, as well as in recent years a single female-female pair of globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatrosses P. albatrus.

Albatrosses 2 Kure Atoll Cynthia Vanderlip shrunk

Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses on Kure

Short tail Kure

Kure Atoll’s Short-tailed Albatross pair – both are females that lay infertile eggs

Photographs by Cynthia Vanderlip

Black footed and Laysan Albatrosses Kure Atoll Conservancy

Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses on Kure Atoll

Cynthia Vanderlip.3

Cynthia Vanderlip, photograph by Kevin Sund

Cynthia Vanderlip is the founder and Executive Director of the Kure Atoll Conservancy.  In 2002 she began supervising the habitat restoration and biological monitoring at Kure Atoll for the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources.  She writes to ACAP Latest News in support of World Albatross Day: “Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses nesting in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument are living near sea level where climate change is destroying their breeding grounds.  It is time to prepare habitat in Hawaii's high islands and invite them back to live with us where they once thrived.”

The Hawaiian Islands are well served by environmental NGOs which work to conserve seabirds and their island habitats.  Kure Atoll Conservancy joins Friends of Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge (FoHI), Friends of Kauaʻi Wildlife Refuges (FKWR), Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (FOMA) and the Hawaiian Audubon Society (HAS) in this work and in supporting the inauguration of an annual World Albatross Day on 19 June.  Mahalo to all.

With thanks to Cynthia Vanderlip, Kure Biological Field Station Supervisor, Kure Atoll Seabird Sanctuary, State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 April 2020

The USA’s Cornell Lab of Ornithology endorses World Albatross Day 2020

Cornell Lab of Ornithology 

There are only a few ornithological institutes with an international standing around the world.  Surely, one of them must be the well-known Cornell Lab of Ornithology, based at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in the USA since 1915.  The Lab’s mission is “to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds”.

An important part of Cornell Lab’s work is its operation of ‘bird cams’ as a free educational resource, usually set up at occupied nests, that live stream 24 hours a day to the Internet.  The Lab writes on its web site: “Our viewers tell us that watching the cams is a life changing experience: an unprecedented learning experience that they liken to virtual field trips or field biology in their living room”.  After a live camera that followed breeding Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis on the Hawaiian island of Kauai over several breeding seasons, viewers can now watch an Endangered Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi nest in the mainland breeding colony within the Taiaroa Head Nature Reserve in New Zealand.  The egg hatched on 31 January and the growing chick can now be watched as it waits to get fed by its parents.  The operation of the ‘Royal Cam’ is partnered with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

A live-streaming Cornell Lab camera is also currently following the breeding attempt of a pair of Endangered Bermuda Petrels or Cahows Pterodroma cahow in their burrow on Nonsuch Island in Bermuda.

In addition, the Cornell Lab manages an Online Guide to Birds and Bird Watching that offers courses on bird biology, identification and the like.  The Lab’s eBird facility is a way thousands of bird watchers around the world have become ‘citizen scientists’ by logging their observations for professional study.

 John Fitzpatrick.1

Dr John Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

ACAP Latest News reached out to the Cornell Lab to gain its support for this year’s inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June.  The Lab’s Executive Director, Dr John Fitzpatrick replied, saying: “Nobody ever forgets the experience of seeing his or her first albatross.  For years the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been proud to feature them, as well as Bermuda’s Endangered Cahow (Bermuda Petrel), on our Bird Cam websites for all the world to admire and learn from.  These magnificent birds of the high seas ride the oceanic winds like no other.  Reversing their global declines must become one of humanity’s top conservation priorities.  We heartily endorse honoring and celebrating these birds on World Albatross Day 2020.”

With this welcome support the EGI joins three other prestigious ornithological institutes supporting ‘WAD2020’: the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology at the UK’s in UK’s University of Oxford, the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology in Japan.

With thanks to John Fitzpatrick, Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 April 2020

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