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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The World Albatross Day Banner at Sea Challenge reaches South Africa

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Crew members on the Augusta 1 point to Albatross Task Force - South Africa's 'WAD2020' banner

BirdLife International’s Albatross Task Force (ATF) is an international team of bycatch experts dedicated to saving albatrosses and other seabirds by working on fishing vessels to promote the use of best-practice mitigation measures.  Since 2006 ATF teams have been working directly with both small-scale fishers and fishing companies to raise awareness and demonstrate the effectiveness of mitigation measures to fishing crews and thereby increase compliance with their use.  The ATF has field teams in five southern hemisphere fishing countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Namibia and South Africa, with overall cordination coming from the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

ACAP Latest News reached out to the five ATF teams with a request that they help raise awareness of this year’s inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June by making banners to photograph out at sea on fishing vessels.  ATF-Chile was the first to respond, taking its banner to sea on a trawler back in December (click here).  South Africa has now followed suit and ATF-South Africa’s Instructor, Reason Nyengera took a most professional-looking ‘WAD2020’ banner out to sea into the rich fishing grounds of the Benguela Current last month. He was aboard the Augusta 1, a demersal long liner fishing for hake Merluccius, where he photographed the banner (see design below) with willing crew members.

Reason observes: “I’ve learnt that the fate of our seabirds lies in the hands of the fishers themselves.  Therefore, engaging with fishers during their daily operations is the greatest key to saving our precious albatrosses and petrels.”

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ATF-South Africa’s Instructor, Reason Nyengera (left) and crew members on the Augusta 1 with Albatross Task Force - South Africa's 'WAD2020' banner

Andrea Angel is the Leader of the Albatross Task Force in South Africa.  Based with Reason in the Cape Town office of BirdLife South Africa, her role includes engaging with South African fishing fleets on the implementation and uptake of seabird bycatch mitigation measures and advancing policy and advocacy for seabird conservation in the Southern Ocean.  She writes to ACAP Latest News: “My passion for albatrosses stems from my life-changing experience of spending a year on Gough Island in 2003/04.  There I was awe struck by their beauty, their immense size and grace in the air.  As the stillness, that only remote places have, is broken by the whoosh of the wind through a Tristan Albatross’s flight feathers one can only be humbled.  I count myself as immensely privileged to have had the opportunity to come close to albatrosses and to dedicating the past 15 years of my career to safeguarding them.”

World Albatross Day SA ATF banner Jan 2020

ACAP Latest News has been sent photos of ‘WAD2020’ banners made by Albatross Task Force teams based in Argentina and Brazil that are being taken out to sea on fishing vessels.  Watch this space for more news of them!

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 March 2020

Telomere length in Cory's Shearwaters is sex dependent in relation to age and reproduction

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Cory's Shearwater, photograph by Paulo Catry

Christina Bauch (Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Lisbon, Portugal) and colleagues have published in the journal Molecular Ecology on telomere length and dynamics in Cory's Shearwaters Calonectris borealis breeding in a long-term study colony on Selvagem Grande, Madeiran Archipelago, Portugal.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Individuals in free‐living animal populations generally differ substantially in reproductive success, lifespan and other fitness‐related traits and the molecular mechanisms underlying this variation are poorly understood.  Telomere length and dynamics are candidate traits explaining this variation, as long telomeres predict a higher survival probability and telomere loss has been shown to reflect experienced “life stress”.  However, telomere dynamics among very long‐lived species are unresolved.  Additionally, it is generally not well understood how telomeres relate with reproductive success or sex.  We measured telomere length and dynamics in erythrocytes to assess their relation to age, sex and reproduction in Cory's Shearwaters (Calonectris borealis), a long‐lived seabird, in the context of a long‐term study.  Adult males had on average 231 bp longer telomeres than females independent of age.  In females, telomere length changed relatively little with age, whereas male telomere length declined significantly.  Telomere shortening within males from one year to the next was three times higher than the inter‐annual shortening rate based on cross‐sectional data of males.  Past long‐term reproductive success was sex‐specifically reflected in age‐corrected telomere length: males with on average high fledgling production were characterised by shorter telomeres, whereas successful females had longer telomeres and we discuss hypotheses that may explain this contrast.  In conclusion, telomere length and dynamics in relation to age and reproduction are sex dependent in Cory's Shearwaters and these findings contribute to our understanding of what characterises individual variation in fitness.”

Reference:

Bauch, C., Gatt, M.C., Granadeiro, J.P., Verhulst, S. & Catry, P. 2020.  Sex‐specific telomere length and dynamics in relation to age and reproductive success in Cory's Shearwaters.  Molecular Ecology doi.org/10.1111/mec.15399.

John Cooper, Information Officer, 21 March 2020

Gough Island mouse eradication project postponed due to COVID-19

 Tristan Albatross Michelle Risi Sam Greenhill

Gough Island's Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses are at serious risk to introduced House Mice

Artwork by Sam Greenhill‎, Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature, from a photograph by Michelle Risi

This austral winter the Gough Island Restoration Programme was set to attempt to eradicate House Mice on the island that kill large numbers of seabirds every year.  The project had started last month with the first field team being taken to the island on a yacht, with the second team due to depart from South Africa at the beginning of this week.  Now, because of restrictions placed on non-South Africans visiting the country (which would include essential team members transiting to Gough) due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has postponed the eradication until next year.

The statement by Martin Harper, RSPB’s Director of Global Conservation, follows in shortened form:

“One area of work where we have had to make an incredibly difficult but essential decision is with our Gough Island Restoration Programme.  Given the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing travel restrictions, it has clearly become impossible to complete the operation this season.

The decision to postpone was not easy but it is the right one.  The amazing team behind the work are understandably hugely disappointed after the massive effort and hard work that has got us to this point.  However, given the circumstances it has become logistically impossible, and contrary to government guidance, for our specialist team to travel to South Africa and onto Gough during the pandemic.  We know that after all the years of planning that the project could save two million seabirds each year and prevent the extinction of a number of species.  But we only have one shot, and to get it right in such a remote place and at such a scale, all the stars must be aligned.  And for this year they are not.

We are committed in our mission to restore Gough to the seabird paradise it once was.  A great many people and organisations have joined and helped us on this project and we owe it to them as well as to our ourselves to make sure that we give ourselves the best chance of success.  We also owe it to our funders and all the people who have generously donated to the project to do the same.

The team on the island have already made great inroads on the initial project set up. This progress will stand us in good stead for next year. We now need to concentrate on getting our people back home safely and planning for the return visit."

With thanks to Pete McClelland, Operations Manager, Gough Island Restoration Programme

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 March 2020

The conservation team on Midway Atoll helps advertise World Albatross Day

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From left: Jimmy Breeden, Kelly Goodale, Elaine Beaudoin, Joanna Morelli, Nicole Faber, Joey Latsha, Emily Jankowski, William Kennerley, Jon Plissner, Tim Clark, Virginie Ternisien, Tristen Luxner, Suzanne Pluskat, Alex Chmielewski, Amanda Boyd and Stephen Barclay, 29 February 2020; photograph by Amanda Boyd

Back in January ACAP Latest News featured a group of volunteers visiting Midway Atoll’s uninhabited Eastern Island in the North Pacific for the annual albatross count.  While on the island they signalled their support for the inauguration of World Albatross Day on 19 June this year by gathering for a photo behind their hand-drawn sign made by volunteer Caren Loebel-Fried.

During her time on Midway, Caren requested that a similar photo be taken on the larger inhabited Sand Island with the atoll’s combined conservation team.  In response no less than 16 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) volunteers, interns and staff, Pacific Rim Conservation staff and Island Conservation staff gathered last month in front of the refuge sign on Sand Island holding up four sheets of paper printed with  the words WORLD ALBATROSS DAY 19 JUNE 2020.  A look at the photo shows that a seemingly bashful Laysan Albatross centre stage has turned its back on the camera, no doubt waiting patiently for peace and quiet to return.  Many more Laysans can be seen gathered for the breeding season in the background.

ACAP Latest News is appreciative of the conservationists on Midway finding time to gather in support of ‘WAD2020’, especially as there is a lot going on at the atoll this year to keep them all busy.  Most important will be the effort set to take place in a few months’ time to eradicate the introduced House Mice that have taken to attacking breeding albatrosses on Sand Island (fortunately Eastern Island remains mouse free).

And of course, among the hundreds and thousands of albatrosses that breed on the atoll to look after there are two world-famous pairs of albatrosses to keep a watchful eye over: 69-year old Laysan Albatross Wisdom and her mate Akeamakai (currently on a ‘gap year’) and George and Geraldine, the only Short-tailed Albatross pair that breeds successfully outside Japan - whose current chick, their second, is growing apace.

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Georg Geraldine 2018Madalyn Riley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Wisdom & Akeamakai, 2015, photo by Kiah Walker

George & Geraldine, 2018, photo by Madelein Riley

Recognition of World Albatross Day has also come from the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge which supports conservation work on the atoll (click here).

With thanks to Stephen Barclay, Acting Manager, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Caren Loebel-Fried.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 March 2020

“Silent Slaughter”. The Chatham Albatross series for World Albatross Day by Eva-Cherie Artz

 Chatham Albatrosses 2 Eva Cherie Artz shrunk

Eva-Cherie Artz is a self-taught artist based in Owenga on New Zealand’s Chatham Islands, working predominantly with dry pastel and acrylics.  She is a Chatham Islander with both Maori and Moriori heritage.  On her website she has written: “Drawing on my experiences at sea and life on the Chatham Islands, I’m inspired by seascapes, bird and fish life, as my ancestors were.  My works represent a spiritual connection with the land and sea, using defining shapes to portray my subjects and the blending of colour to symbolise emotion and a character’s aura".

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Eva-Cherie Artz with examples of her "Silent Slaughter - Chatham Albatross" series

Her ‘muse’ is the globally Vulnerable (and nationally Naturally Uncommon) Chatham Albatross Thalassarche impavida.  This albatross, endemic to New Zealand, breeds only on The Pyramid, an imposing rocky stack situated south of Pitt Island in the Chatham Island group.

At ACAP Latest News’ request, Eva-Cherie has produced two evocative paintings of Chatham Albatrosses in her "Silent Slaughter" series to mark the inauguration of  World Albatross Day on 19 June.  She writes: “The Hook represents the hazards and perils Chatham Albatrosses face when they are at sea on their life’s journey; the Tear Drop of blood represents the sadness of the fatalities and the birds that never return home; the Rainbow represents treasure and how valuable the albatrosses are to me and to the rest of the world; and the Pyramid represents their home, a small rugged island in the Chatham Islands group.”

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View more of Eva-Cherie Artz’s art here.

With grateful thanks to Eva-Cherie Artz

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 March 2020

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