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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Short-tailed Albatrosses not doing badly among decreases in breeding seabirds in Japan

Masayuki Senzaki (Center for Environmental Biology and Ecosystem Studies, Tsukuba City, Japan) and colleagues have published in the journal Bird Conservation International on population changes in breeding seabirds in Japan, including of ACAP-listed albatrosses.

The paper’s summary follows:

“Global seabird populations are in decline, with nearly half of all seabird species currently in an extinction crisis.  Understanding long-term seabird population trends is an essential first step to inform conservation actions.  In this study, we assembled historical breeding records of seabirds throughout the Japanese archipelago and quantified the long-term population trends of 10 major breeding seabird species using a hierarchical Bayesian state-space model.  The model revealed that six species had increasing or no detectable trends (Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus, Leach’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa, Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus, Japanese Cormorant Phalacrocorax capillatus, Spectacled Guillemot Cepphus carbo, and Rhinoceros Auklet Cerorhinca monocerata).  However, decreasing trends were found not only in nationally threatened species (Common Murre Uria aalge, and Tufted Puffin Fratercula cirrhata) but also common species that are often described as abundant (Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris and Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus).  These declining species have declined to 3–35% of baseline levels over the past 30 years.  This study provides the first evidence of long-term declines in common and widespread seabirds in Japan.”

Short-tailed Albatross on Japan's Torishima, photograph by Hiroshi Hasegawa

Reference:

Senzaki, M., Terui, A., Tomita, N., Sato, F., Fukuda, Y., Kataoka, Y. & Watanuki, Y. 2019.  Long-term declines in common breeding seabirds in Japan.  Bird Conservation International: doi.org/10.1017/S0959270919000352.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 October 2019

In the service of conservation: support for World Albatross Day comes from five wildlife artists

Five artists who have depicted albatrosses in their outputs come together to support next year’s inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June.  Examples of their works and their statements in support of World Albatross Day follow.

Kitty Harvill

 

“I fell in love with Wisdom, the 68-year old Midway Laysan Albatross, while creating illustrations for the book by the same name.  She’s well named, and has much to teach us as conservationists and activists battling for the survival of our planet - patience, perseverance and setting an example by making waves that will carry forward, further than we might ever have dreamed.” - Kitty Harvill, Brazil, Signature Member, Artists for Conservation; Co-founder, ABUN - Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature; illustrator, Wisdom: the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and other Disasters for over 60 Years.

Caren Loebel-Fried

 

“The albatross has long been my muse.  Traveller of vast distances on long, thin, glider wings, passionate dancer, exuberant vocalizer, so committed to a mate and a youngster.  I’ve been lucky to know albatrosses, but their lives are mostly hidden from us humans.  Our lack of awareness makes them even more vulnerable than they already are.  World Albatross Day, a yearly celebration of these incredible creatures, brings the albatross into our lives, and knowledge can spark the desire to protect our natural world.” - Caren Loebel-Fried, Hawaii, USA, artist, naturalist, and author of children's books, including A Perfect Day for an Albatross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gavin Mouldey

"Although albatross don’t frequent the coast where I live and work, seabirds and the sounds of waves are ever present.  Toroa in Māori means ‘albatross’, and is also the given name of the 500th chick hatched at the Taiaroa Head Royal Albatross Colony. The six months spent researching, drawing and painting the book Toroa’s Journey left me in awe of this amazingly resilient individual and his species’ ability to overcome natural challenges. There were also many moments of sadness and frustration over the less natural challenges they face." - Gavin Mouldey, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand, illustrator, Toroa's Journey.

 

Jamie Watts

 

 

“Albatrosses remain under serious threat, although heroic efforts from a few have slowed the impact of fisheries on some populations.  World Albatross Day aims to celebrate the exquisite beauty of these animals, and remind us to work harder to bring them back from the brink.” - Jamie Watts, UK, illustrator, lecturer and expedition guide.

Leigh Wolfaardt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Albatrosses are truly magnificent creatures, an absolute wonder and delight to observe in flight, gliding effortlessly above the waves.  They are a never-ending source of inspiration for my art.  World Albatross Day provides an important opportunity to promote awareness of these wonderful, but highly threatened, denizens of the oceans and skies.” – Leigh Wolfaardt, South Africa, artist and illustrator.

With thanks to Kitty Harvill, Caren Loebel-Fried, Jamie Watts and Leigh Wolfaardt.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 October 2019

ACAP Breeding Site No. 92. Bleaker Island, Southern Giant Petrel home in the South Atlantic, has its Norway Rats poisoned

The Bleaker Island Group lies close off the south-eastern coast of East Falkland (Islas Malvinas)*.  The low-lying islands are privately owned; the long, narrow main island is run as a farm and is also visited by day and overnight tourists.

Accommodation at the settlement on Bleaker Island

 

The breeding population of Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus based on near-annual chick counts received from the island's owner by Falklands Conservation increased irregularly from 150 in 2001/02 to a peak of over 300 in 2014/15, subsequently dropping annually to 206 in 2017/18.  The most recent count, for  the 2018/19 breeding season, was 265 chicks.  Information from Nick Rendell, Bleaker Island Farm owner, follows: "The last two year’s cohort[s] of chicks have been hit by untimely late summer storms.  We observed notable numbers of dead SGP chicks in late summer 2017 and 2018 after unusually strong storm events".

"The distribution of breeding pairs is right along the western coast of Bleaker Island from the very north end to the very south end.  There are several notable clusters of up to 40 breeding pairs – particularly in the south end camps.  The SGP distribution seems to be expanding – with some small groups of breeding pairs found on the east coast of the north end now.  They are slowly breeding closer to the settlement – for instance SGPs started breeding on Gull Point for the first time 2 seasons ago."

Sooty Shearwaters Ardenna grisea and Grey-backed Storm Petrels Garrodia nereis (suspected) also breed within the group, along with three penguin species and other birds.

Southern Giant Petrel Chick on Bleaker Island

A ground-based operation that deployed some 7800 kg of cereal-based bait containing the poison Brodifacoum in May this year has hopefully cleared the island of the introduced Norway Rat Rattus norvegicus, the only pest mammal present.  The bait was deployed on the main island (2070 ha), as well as by hand on four small surrounding islands known to be infested with rats (First, Second, Third and Ghost) totalling 11 ha.  Three other small islands in the group were found to be rat free and so were not treated.  To avoid any secondary poisoning by scavenging on dead or dying rats, the baiting exercise was conducted outside the Southern Giant Petrel’s breeding season when fewer birds are present on the island.

 

Sally Poncet drives out the bait, photograph by Traighana Smith

 “Using poisoned bait to eradicate rats on an island with livestock (roughly 1000 sheep and 60 cattle) requires careful planning to ensure that the livestock does not have access to the bait.  To this end, the island's 25 camps and paddocks were grouped together in five separate alternating blocks: two blocks made up of paddocks which would continue to be grazed after the bait was set, and three blocks comprising the paddocks that would remain ungrazed.”

In the blocks to be grazed, bait was placed in 880 bait stations made of 500-mm lengths of plastic pipe to prevent livestock access.  Ungrazed blocks were treated by hand broadcasting of bait.

Plastic-pipe bait station, photograph by Traighana Smith

The outcome of the eradication effort will not become known until May 2021, when the final check for rat sign will take place. Up  to the time of writing there have been no signs of rats.  Nick writes: "We have chew sticks and monitoring stations out and have been checking coast closely and nothing yet.  So looking good so far.  We plan to get a detector dog out in October for an initial check which will be useful."  A biosecurity plan to minimise the risk of re-invasion by rats has been formulated.  The Bleaker Island rat eradication project followed on from a 2014 feasibility study.  It was co-ordinated by Nick Rendell, Bleaker Island Farm and Sally Poncet, Island LandCare.

The Bleaker Island Group has been identified as an Important Bird Area due to its large colonies of cormorants by BirdLife International.  The northern part of the main island was designated a National Nature Reserve in 1970.

Big Pond, Bleaker Island

With thanks to Sally Poncet, Nick Rendell, Traighana Smith, Andrew Stanworth and Megan Tierney

References:

Anon. 2019. Wait begins as 7,800 kg of bait set in Bleaker rat eradication.  Penguin News 28 June 2019.  pp. 8-9.

BirdLife International 2019.  Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bleaker Island Group.

Brown, D. & Poncet, S. 2004.  Feasibility Study Report for the Potential Eradication of Norway Rats on Bleaker Island, Falkland Islands.  Unpubl. Report.  81 pp.

Crofts, S. & Stanworth, A. 2018.  Falkland Islands Seabird Monitoring Programme ‐ Annual Report 2017/2018 (SMP25).  Stanley: Falklands Conservation.  44 pp.

Falkland Conservation 2006.  Important Bird Areas of the Falkland Islands.  Stanley: Falklands Conservation.  160 pp.

Patterson, D.L., Woehler, E.J., Croxall, J.P., Cooper, J., Poncet, S., Hunter, S. & Fraser, W.R. 2008.  Breeding distribution and population status of the Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli and Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus.  Marine Ornithology 36: 115-124.

Poncet, S. & Passfield, K. 2012.  Surveys of Islands in the Bleaker Island Group: First, Second, Third, Halt, North Point, Ghost and Sandy Bay Islands.  Stanley: Beaver Island LandCare.  36 pp.

Reid, T.A. & Huin, N. 2008.  Census of the Southern Giant Petrel population of the Falkland Islands 2004/2005.  Bird Conservation International 18: 118-128.

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.

Summers, D. 2001.  A Visitor’s Guide to the Falkland IslandsLondon: Falklands Conservation.  109 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 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.

ACAP veteran Chief Officers support World Albatross Day

 The first World Albatross Day is set to be celebrated on 19 June next year, 19 years after the Albatross and Petrel Agreement was signed in Canberra, Australia on the same date.  In the first few years of the Agreement an Advisory Committee was established, followed by four working groups, along with the appointment of the then Interim Secretariat’s first Executive Secretary, Warren Papworth.  In 2006 the seven chief officers of these bodies co-authored a Forum paper in the journal Marine Ornithology that sets out the rationale for the Agreement, its history and progress up to that year and included some discussion on a way forward.  Notably, four of these seven veterans are still involved with ACAP in various capacities, regularly attending annual meetings and contributing to discussions.

Following an outreach exercise the ‘ACAP Vets’ have offered short statements in support of the inauguration of World Albatross Day next year.  Their quotes follow.

Barry Baker

“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.” - Dr Barry Baker, Director, Latitude 42 Environmental Management Consultants, Scientific Councillor (By-catch), Convention on Migratory Species; Convenor, Executive Committee, Australasian Seabird Group; past Convenor and current member, ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Double

“To misquote Robert Cushman Murphy, everyone today and in the future deserves the chance to join the higher cult of mortals by seeing an albatross.  I will never forget the day I did and my life was better for it.  I thank all those around world fighting to save albatrosses, you make the world a richer place.” - Dr Michael Double, Leader Antarctic Wildlife and Management Section, Australian Antarctic Division; Alternate Commissioner (Science), Australian Delegation to the International Whaling Commission; past Convenor & current Vice-convenor, ACAP Taxonomy Working Group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosemary Gales

“Our assessments of the status of albatrosses paint a solemn forecast.  These magnificent birds, however, share their stage with a determined band of people across the world who are committed to their conservation and survival.  Tides can be turned and we must continue to collaborate to improve the status of this flagship group of birds.  ACAP provides a mechanism where we can work together and World Albatross Day provides a wonderful moment to celebrate the successes and re-commit to our ongoing endeavours.” – Dr Rosemary Gales, Co-editor, Albatross Biology and Conservation (1998); past Convenor, ACAP Status and Trends Working Group; past Co-convenor, ACAP Population and Conservation Status Working Group

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Tasker

“Albatrosses are one of the pinnacles of evolution in harnessing the winds to search much of the world’s oceans for food.  Sadly, human activities are putting them at risk of extinction.  I hope that World Albatross Day will highlight their plight and encourage a greater focus globally on their conservation.” - Mark Tasker, retired Head of Marine Advice, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, United Kingdom; past Chair and Vice Chair of ACAP Advisory Committee; Convenor of the ACAP Taxonomy Working Group

 

 

 

Susan Waugh

A haiku from the heart on the theme of Toroa/Albatrosses:

"Splendid, great white bird

Vulnerable, clinging on

At the world’s edges”

– Dr Susan Waugh, Head of Science, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; past Convenor, ACAP Breeding Sites Working Group

 

 

 

 

Reference:

Cooper, J., Baker, G.B., Double, M.C., Gales, R., Papworth, W., Tasker, M.L. & Waugh, S.M. 2006. Forum - The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels: rationale, history, progress and the way forward. Marine Ornithology 34: 1-5.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 September 2019

The Third World Seabird Conference, Hobart, October 2020 calls for abstracts

Abstract submissions are now being accepted for the Third World Seabird Conference (WSC3), to be held in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia over 19-23 October 2020.  Submissions are now being accepted for symposia, contributed oral presentations and posters.  More information can be found on the conference website regarding submissions guidelines, process and accepted symposia.

 

 “In seeking to make the 3rd World Seabird Conference truly a global meeting, the Travel Awards Committee will search for representation from as many countries as possible.  Students, Early Career Scientists (ECS), established seabird scientists, and conservation practitioners from developing countries as well as officially retired but still active seabird scientists are encouraged to apply. Travel Awards are intended to help defray the cost of attending the meeting, not to cover all expenses.  More information regarding the application process, explanations and deadlines can be found on the website.

The deadline for abstract and travel award submissions is 30 November 2019

John Cooper, ACAP information Officer, 26 September 2019

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