Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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The Pacific Seabird Group joins two other seabird groups in supporting World Albatross Day 2020

Pacific Seabird Group

The Pacific Seabird Group (PSG) is a society of professional seabird researchers and managers dedicated to the study and conservation of Pacific seabirds and their environment.  The PSG was formed in 1972 out of a need for increased communication among academic and government seabird professionals.  The principal goals of the PSG are (1) to increase the quality and quantity of seabird research through facilitating exchange of information; and (2) to identify and assess the importance of threats to seabird populations and provide government agencies and others with expert advice on managing their threats and populations.  Since 2007, the PSGs Craig S. Harrison Conservation Fund Grants Program has supported research and conservation of seabirds including encouraging at-sea monitoring of Critically Endangered Waved Albatrosses Phoebastria irrorata by small-scale fishers, educational materials for fisheries and their communities in Peru, and Black-browed Albatross diet and fisheries interactions in Chile (click here).

PSG members include biologists, wildlife managers, post-docs, students and conservation biologists from 21 countries, including Canada, Japan, Mexico and the USA and from ACAP Parties Australia, Chile, Ecuador, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and the United Kingdom.  The total membership is currently 470.  PSG annual meetings and publications (including the peer-reviewed journal Marine Ornithology) provide forums where members can share their findings on all research topics related to Pacific seabirds and discuss local and large-scale conservation issues.  The Executive Council (the current Chair is Robert Suryan) guides the organization and makes decisions regarding operations.  The council is made up of 15 members including six Officers, a Student Representative and eight Regional Representatives.

The Executive Council has written to ACAP Latest  News stating “The Pacific Seabird Group lends its support to World Albatross Day, as a day to find joy in these incredible birds, solidify future efforts for their conservation and celebrate global and local initiatives that continue to have an impact on the resilience of these species.”  This welcome support means the Pacific Seabird Group joins the original (United Kingdom) Seabird Group, the Australasian Seabird Group and the Durch Seabird Group in recognizing the value of celebrating a World Albatross Day every year.

The PSG has also asked its members to reflect on their motivations for studying albatrosses, their conservation and thoughts on what World Albatross Day means to them. The several replies received follow.

“No matter how long you have been studying albatrosses, or through which lens you study them, they are a true wonder of nature and remain immensely fascinating.  Being part of a global effort to study and protect these gentle giants threatened with extinction means hard work but feels more like giving back.” - Jean-Baptiste Thiebot, National Institute of Polar Research, Japan.

Jean-Baptiste Thiebot on Torishima, Japan

                                

Jean-Baptiste Thiebot uses a metal detector to scan for ingested fishing hooks onn Torishima

“When we think of the iconic migrations of the world, we often think of East Africa and the migrations of the Serengeti: a landscape of 30 000 km².  But an albatross harnesses the wind to cover a seascape of 500 000 km² in a single year or to circumnavigate Earth’s southern pole.    An albatross is the stuff of myth and legend and poetry, but real. How could one not celebrate and protect such a bird?” - Autumn-Lynn Harrison, Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, USA.

Harrison A L LTJA shrunk 

Autumn-Lynn Harrison with a Long-tailed Jaeger in Denali National Park, Alaska

“My motivation for studying albatrosses is to understand their ability to travel so far with such little effort and cost.  They make flight look so graceful.” - Scott Shaffer, Biological Sciences, San Jose State University, USA.

 Shaffer Midway2006 photo1

Scott Shaffer with a Black-footed Albatross fledgling, Midway Atoll

“What could be more fascinating than a bird that lives as long or longer than you and I, that sails across tempestuous ocean basins on giant specialized wings, and that courts his or her lifelong mate with a ritual dance every breeding season?  Albatrosses are a gift of beauty and intrigue to our collection of biodiversity on this planet and it would be a great tragedy to lose them.  On World Albatross Day we get to come together to recognize and celebrate these magnificent animals.” - Melinda Conners, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, USA

Conners TernIsland 

Melinda Connors, Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

“When I look into the eyes of an albatross I always wonder what it has experienced during its life-time: what fishing vessels it has encountered, how many chicks it has raised, what storms it has weathered, and how many miles has it flown.  I am looking forward to celebrating World Albatross Day and building efforts to ensure that the next generations of albatrosses continue to explore the oceans.” - Rachael Orben, Oregon State University, USA

Rachael Orben BirdIsland BBALnestbalancechick shrunk 

Rachael Orben returns a Black-browed Albatross chick to its nest weigh balance, Bird Island, South Atlantic

“Humans have a long history of altering landscapes, but fewer examples of restoration and repatriation.  Albatrosses are emblematic of anthropogenic pressures on land and at sea.  Humans owe these resilient yet vulnerable seabirds our stewardship towards the restoration and maintenance of stable albatross populations.  How can we work together to prevent the extinction of remote, wide-ranging, yet vulnerable species?  World Albatross Day connects admirers of albatrosses globally to aid in the mutual goal of protecting these fascinating seabirds.” - Corey Clatterbuck, San Diego State University, USA

                                

Corey Clatterbuck, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

“A decade ago, I started my journey along with the albatrosses in Chile.  I had the opportunity to learn more about these mysterious animals when I arrived on the Diego Ramírez Islands, south of Cape Horn.  In this world of salt and feathers, I learned more about albatrosses, and in particular of their alarming interaction with fisheries when I started to find debris and hooks carried by adults returning to the nest.  It made me realize that looking after albatrosses at the colony was only one part of the story – that we had to do something about the threats they were facing in the marine realm as a whole.  Since that time, I have been able to combine my colony and at-sea experience trialling mitigation measures to improve the prospects of albatrosses.  I will celebrate the first World Albatross Day in 2020 since my country has a huge global responsibility to not only understand but also solve the threats that these natural treasures are facing beyond the waves.” – Cristián G. Suazo, JLU-Giessen & Albatross Task Force - Chile, BirdLife International – CODEFF

 

Cristián Suazo, with Grey-headed Albatrosses on the Diego Ramírez Islands, Chile

“The grace by which an albatross navigates a storm at sea has always amazed me.  To understand more fully their remarkable travels across the oceans and unique life-histories is even more inspirational.  Albatrosses are amazingly resilient, but only to a point, which many have reached and need our collective help.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have participated in a few of these efforts.  I look forward to celebrating World Albatross Day to raise awareness of these amazing birds, their remote island and ocean homes, and the many people and organizations that are devoted to protecting them” Robert Suryan, NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center, USA and Chair, Pacific Seabird Group

  Robert Suryan Torishima STAL translocation

Robert Suryan, Torishima, Japan. Transporting Short-tailed Albatross chicks to re-establish a colony on Mukojima, Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands

Rachael Orben, Regional Representative, Pacific Seabird Group & Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, USA & John Cooper, Honorary Member & 2012 Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Pacific Seabird Group & ACAP Information Officer, 24 May 2020

Wandering Albatrosses on Australia’s Macquarie Island are having a better breeding season

A Wandering Albatross on Macquarie Island, photograph by Kate Lawrence

Australia’s sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island supports a small population of globally Vulnerable Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans.  In the 2018/19 breeding season only three pairs laid eggs but the current 2019/230 season has seen an increase, with 10 eggs present in January (click here).

The island now reports that following a survey this month there are six chicks present.

“Wildlife Ranger Sara Larcombe, who has just returned from a monitoring trip to the main colony which is about a 40-km walk from the main station on Macquarie Island, found six of the 10 Wandering albatross pairs had successfully hatched a chick.  Two sets of parents … were first-time breeders.  One of this year’s nests, on the northern west coast of the island, is in a location that hasn’t been used for breeding since 1967.”

Trail cameras have been placed at nests to monitor chick health and feeding visits by parents.

“The Wanderers choose nest sites that are exposed to the strong westerly winds which are typical of Macquarie Island.  This means that monitoring involves walking the length of the island and working out of a remote field hut on the southern coast, a trip Ms Larcombe will make once a month until the chicks are fully grown and able to leave the island in December.”

Read more here.

With thanks to Keith Springer.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 May 2020

World Albatross Day gets a music video of Gough Island's albatrosses

Michelle Risi and Christopher Jones are spending their third full year as field researchers on the UK’s Gough Island in the South Atlantic.  There they continue to work for the Gough Island Restoration Programme managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).  Much of their fieldwork concentrates on the long-term monitoring* of three threatened species of ACAP-listed albatrosses that are at risk to attacks by introduced House Mice Mus musculus.  These species are the  Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, Endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos and the Endangered Sooty Albatross Phoebetria fusca.

In the first half of 2019 Michelle suggested to ACAP’s Information Officer that a World Albatross Day should be instituted to increase awareness of the conservation plight that the world’s 22 species of albatrosses face.  ACAP took up this challenge, and the first World Albatross Day will be marked globally next month on 19 June. Tristan.10

 Michelle Risi, Chris Jones and fellow team member Alexis Osborne (centre) with their World Albatross Day banner on Gough Island next to a Tristan Albatross chick

Michelle Risi has contributed further to ACAP’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness of ‘WAD2020’ by designing a series of free downloadable posters from her own photographs of albatrosses taken on Gough and on South Africa’s Marion Island – where she has also spent time conducting field work.  Along with long-term field team partner, Chris Jones, she has now produced this video for ACAP, for which the Agreement is most grateful.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 May 2020

*Established by ACAP’s Information Officer in his field-work days around 25 years ago.

So good they’ve gone: rabbits were not good for Macquarie Island’s albatrosses

Greyhead Macca Melanie Wells

Grey-headed Albatross on Macquarie Island, photograph by Melanie Wells

Jaimie Cleeland (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Battery Point, Tasmania, Australia) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Scientific Reports on influence of introduced European Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus (now eradicated) and extreme weather patterns on the breeding albatrosses of Australia’s sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Invasive species present a major conservation threat globally and nowhere are their affects more pronounced than in island ecosystems.  Determining how native island populations respond demographically to invasive species can provide information to mitigate the negative effects of invasive species.  Using 20 years of mark-recapture data from three sympatric species of albatrosses (black-browed Thalassarche melanophris, grey-headed T. chrysostoma, and light-mantled albatrosses Phoebetria palpebrata), we quantified the influence of invasive European rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and extreme weather patterns on breeding probability and success.  Temporal variability in rabbit density explained 33–76% of the variability in breeding probability for all three species, with severe decreases in breeding probability observed after a lag period following highest rabbit numbers.  For black-browed albatrosses, the combination of extreme rainfall and high rabbit density explained 33% of total trait variability and dramatically reduced breeding success.  We showed that invasive rabbits and extreme weather events reduce reproductive output in albatrosses and that eliminating rabbits had a positive effect on albatross reproduction.  This illustrates how active animal management at a local breeding site can result in positive population outcomes even for wide ranging animals like albatrosses where influencing vital rates during their at-sea migrations is more challenging.”

Read a popular account of the publication here.

Reference:

Cleeland, J.B., Pardo, D., Raymond, B., Terauds, S., Alderman, R., McMahon, C.R., Phillips, R.A., Lea, M.-A. & Mark A. Hindell, M.A. 2020.  Introduced species and extreme weather as key drivers of reproductive output in three sympatric albatrosses.  Scientific Reports: 10: 8199. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64662-5.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 May 2020Z

Announcing a World Albatross Day competition: The Great Albicake Bake Off

WAD Bake off poster Mk III 

Have time on your hands while in COVID-19-induced quarantine or self isolating?  To mark the inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June the Albatross and Petrel Agreement (ACAP) invites you to bake an albatross-themed cake while in lockdown and enter the World Albatross Day Great Albicake Bake Off competition.

To participate in the Albicake Bake Off submit an image of your creation along with a title, a brief descriptive text, and your name and e-mail address to Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser. with “AlbiCake Bake Off” in the subject field by 15 June 2020.  No limit is placed on the number of entries per individual but each should be submitted in a separate e-mail.

Each entrant will receive a specially designed colour certificate bearing an image of an albatross artwork from the Artists and Biologists Unite for Nature (ABUN)’s World Albatross Day Project to download and print out.  Category winners will receive WAD2020 posters.  A special book prize on South Africa’s Sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands co-authored and signed by ACAP’s Information Officer will be awarded to the cake judged as the overall winner.

Three Guest Judges invited for their significant contributions to the conservation of albatrosses (and their ability to enjoy a good cake) will choose winning entries based on the following themes:

  • Best presentation
  • Most creative
  • Morphological accuracy
  • People’s choice (based on Facebook likes)
  • Eradicating Island Pests (WAD2020 theme)
  • Rainbow theme in recognition of global health care workers in the face of COVID-19
  • Best Albicake overall

MEET THE WAD2020 GREAT ALBICAKE BAKE-OFF JUDGES

Cleo Small

Cleo Cunningham, Deputy Head, Conserving Land and Seascapes, United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre; past Head, Marine Programme, BirdLife International

“Albatrosses face multiple threats both on land and out at sea.  World Albatross Day represents an excellent opportunity to draw attention to the issues we must address to protect these extraordinary birds, as well as the opportunities and challenges associated with each of these threats.”

Keith SpringerLord Howe

Keith Springer, past Manager, Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project, Parks & Wildlife Service, Tasmania

“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.”

 

 

 

 

 Tatiana Neves 3

Tatiana Neves, Founder & General Coordinator, Projeto Albatroz; Vice-Chair, ACAP Advisory Committee

“Having a World Albatross Day is a great idea.  I have dedicated a lifetime to the conservation of albatrosses and petrels, so having a World Albatross Day, as recognition of the global importance of those magnificent birds and the threats they face, is important in increasing global awareness of the importance of actions to prevent their extinction.”

“Ter um Dia do Albatroz é uma ótima ideia.  I tenho dedicado todo uma vida para a conservação de albatrozes e petreis, e ter um Dia do Albatroz, como um reconhecimento da importância global para essas aves magníficas e das ameaças que elas enfrentam, é crucial para aumentar a consciência global sobre a importância das ações para prevenir sua extinção

And meet the competition organizers and their cakes:

 created by dji camera

 

Alexis Osborne Sooty Albatross chick birthday cake

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle Risi records the band number of an inquisitive Tristan Albatross in the Tafelkop study colony on Gough Island.  The bird was banded as a chick in 2013 and was yet to breed; photograph by Chris Jones.  Michelle made the Sooty Albatross cake on Gough Island with colleagues for a birthday

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Southern Giant Petrel Melanie Wells

Melanie Wells prepares to band Grey-headed Albatrosses on Macquarie Island as a Light-mantled Albatross flies by; photograph by Julie McInnes. Mel's cake is actually of a white-phase Southern Giant Petrel after a grisly feed

 Michelle Risi, Gough Island & Melanie Wells, Macquarie Island, Competition Organizers, aspiring bakers and sub-Antarctic ornithologists, 20 May 2020

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