Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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World Albatross Day’s theme for its inaugural year of Eradicating Island Pests receives support from international restoration experts

The first World Albatross Day is set to be celebrated on 19 June next year.  Following discussion, and consideration of the main threats facing albatrosses identified in a recent review in the journal Biological Conservation, the theme of eradicating introduced pests at breeding sites of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters has been chosen to highlight a continuing, but addressable, problem facing ACAP-listed species, many of which are threatened with extinction unless actions are taken.  Although not all 13 Parties to the Agreement support breeding populations of albatrosses, they are all range states, so those without (including some cooperating non-Party range states) will have an interest in conservation efforts conducted at the breeding sites of species that regularly visit their territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones - where they will be susceptible to interactions with domestic fishing vessels.

Next year attempts will be made to eradicate introduced House Mice Mus musculus on the UK’s Gough Island and the USA’s Midway Atoll.  At both localities mice have been attacking and killing albatrosses, as has been regularly reported in ACAP Latest News.  Planning and field work is expected to continue towards eradicating mice on South Africa’s Marion Island and on New Zealand’s Auckland Island (along with its feral cats and pigs) in 2020.  These, and other pest eradication projects at breeding sites of ACAP-listed species, will be highlighted in the build up to World Albatross Day on 19 June next year.

Quotes in support of World Albatross Day and its inaugural theme follow from five well-known island restoration experts, all of whom have been involved, mostly as leaders, of successful island eradications of rodents and other introduced mammals from albatross and petrel breeding islands over the past few decades.

Peter Garden

“Albatrosses frequent the uninhabited places of the globe but even here, their very survival is affected by human activity.” - Peter J. Garden ONZM*, Remote Habitat Restoration Specialist and Helicopter Pilot, Wanaka, New Zealand

*Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to aviation and conservation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Tony Martin

“The cherished memory of your first albatross, often a steadfast, alabaster-white arc wheeling above a dark, malevolent ocean, is one that remains forever.  We can, and must, do whatever is necessary to safeguard these magical creatures; the world, and our human successors, would be immeasurably impoverished without them.” - Tony Martin, Emeritus Professor of Animal Conservation, University of Dundee; 2016 Conservationist of the Year, Zoological Society of London; Past Leader, South Georgia Heritage Trust Habitat Restoration Project; author, Albatrosses (2011).

 

 

 

 

Pete McClelland

“Albatrosses represent everything that is special about the Southern Ocean.  From the impressive size of the great albatrosses as they glide effortlessly across thousands of kilometres of ocean to the haunting cry of a Light-mantled Albatross as it undertakes its courtship flight, it is impossible not to be moved by these birds.  To lose them is to lose part of our soul. World Albatross Day reminds us of just how important they are and why we must work to protect them.” – Pete McClelland, Operations Manager, Gough Island Restoration Programme, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, past Project Manager, Campbell Island Rat Eradication Project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sally Poncet

“Living in the South Atlantic, sailing the Southern Ocean and visiting its islands, studying Wanderers every year, albatrosses have been an ever-present part of my life for decades.  Viewed by some as canaries in the coalmine of an ailing planet, symbols of hope for future generations by others, for me albatrosses are workers of miracles for the passion they give us.  World Albatross Day: what a great way for us all to share our thoughts on albatrosses and bring immediacy to their plight.” – Sally Poncet PM*, Rodent Eradication Leader, Falklands Islands (Islas Malvinas)*, Island LandCare; author, Southern Ocean Cruising (2007); co-author, A Visitor's Guide to South Georgia (2012).

*Polar Medal

 

 

 

 

 

 Keith Springer

“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.” - Keith Springer, past Manager, Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project, Parks & Wildlife Service, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Tasmania, Technical Advisor, Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project

 

 

 

 

 

With thanks to Peter Garden, Tony Martin, Pete McClelland, Keith Springer and Sally Poncet.

Reference:

Dias, M.P., Martin, R., Pearmain, E.J., Burfield, A.J., Small, C., Phillips, R.A., Yates, O., Lascelles, B., Garcia Borboroglu, P. & Croxall, J.P. 2019.  Threats to seabirds: a global assessment.  Biological Conservation doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.06.033.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 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.

Saving seabirds: draft National Light Pollution Guidelines released for comment by Australia

Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy has released for public comment Draft National Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife Including marine turtles, seabirds and migratory shorebirds.  “The National Light Pollution Guidelines aim to raise awareness of the potential impacts of artificial light on wildlife and provide a framework for assessing and managing these impacts around susceptible listed wildlife.”  The 98-page report, dated September 2019, includes a comprehensive list of references, including some published in 2018.

A grounded shearwater below street lights, photograph by Beneharo Rodriguez

Aspects of the guidelines concern assessing and responding to the effects of light pollution on seabirds, whether at sea, or on shore (including at breeding colonies).  A 12-page appendix considers the problem of light pollution affecting seabirds, notably burrowing petrels and shearwaters.  The appendix includes a “Seabird Light Mitigation Toolbox” which lists the most effective measures to reduce light pollution effects following a “comprehensive review” as:

 turning lights off during fledging periods;

 modification of light wavelengths;

 banning external lights and closing window blinds to shield internal lights;

 shielding the light source and preventing upward light spill;

 reducing traffic speed limits and display of warning signs; and

 implementing a rescue programme for grounded birds.

Submissions close on 30 September 2019.  Submissions received after this date will be considered at the Department's discretion.  Click here for information on the submission procedure.

With thanks to Jonathon Barrington.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 September 2019

Southern Giant Petrels appear to be on the rise in the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas*

Andrew Stanworth and Sarah Crofts (Falklands Conservation, Stanley) published online in 2017 a report on a 2015/16 survey of breeding sites of the Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.

The report’s summary follows:

“A survey of key breeding sites of Southern Giant Petrels (Macronectes giganteus) within the Falkland Islands was undertaken in 2015/16.  The minimum breeding population of the Islands was estimated to be 20,970 ± 180 pairs, an increase of 7.4 % since the previous census in 2004/05.  Sixteen breeding sites were confirmed, supporting a minimum of 21 colonies/breeding areas; however, this figure does not account for likely additional small groups or single pairs breeding around the coasts, which were not surveyed.  Based on the previous census, these small groups (constituting less than 0.5 % of the total estimated figure in 2004/05) are unlikely to significantly influence the overall population estimate.  The current Falkland estimate would increase the global population estimate by 1441 breeding pairs to 48,239 breeding pairs; of which the Falklands would comprise approximately 43 %.

Of the ten key breeding sites (Key Sites) for this species at the Falklands, five had decreased, four had increased (one based on a partial count) and one remained only partially surveyed. Changes in breeding pairs at colonies ranged from a reduction of 754 pairs to an increase of 1554 pairs.  Percentage change at colonies ranged between a reduction of 100 % (i.e. no colony now present), to an increase of 245 %.  Average change over the eight Key Sites with complete counts was an increase by 1.6 % ± 65.3 %.  The total count for sites other than Key Sites had increased by 744 pairs (57 %) since the 2004/05 census.

Major threats remain to be human disturbance and fisheries by-catch, both within the Falklands EEZ, but likely more significantly beyond it.  Uncertainties around other threats, such as climatic changes/El Niño and increasing evidence of plastic ingestion in seabirds remain unknown for this species in the Islands.  Population monitoring through two Island surveys (2004/05 and 2015/16), as well as annual monitoring since 2006, point towards a stable, but likely increasing breeding population of Southern Giant Petrels in the Falkland Islands.”

 

Breeding Southern Giant Petrel on Steeple Jason Island, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*; photograph by Ian Strange

With thanks to Andrew Stanforth and to Megan Tierney for bringing the report to my attention.

Reference:

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.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 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.

The Hawaiian island of Molokai is to get a predator-proof fence around a Laysan Albatross attraction site

The American Bird Conservancy and the Molokai Land Trust aim to construct a predator-proof fence at the Mokio Preserve on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.  The purpose of the fence is to provide protection to rare native plants and breeding seabirds at a dune restoration site on the Anapuka Peninsula within the 695-ha preserve on the north-west coast of the island (click here).

The black dashed line in the Mokio Preserve marks the line of the planned predator-proof fence; map from the Molokai Land Trust

The 2-m high fence will be 1.7 km long and will encompass 36 ha; both fence ends will be on sea cliff edges.  It will come with a fine mesh, a ground-level skirt and a hood, following predator-proof fences erected in New Zealand and on two other Hawaiian islands (Oahu and Kauai).  It is aimed to keep out rodents, mongooses and feral cats, as well as introduced Axis Deer or Chital Axis axis and domestic dogs.  An existing deer fence will be removed once the new fence is up.  Vehicular and pedestrian access will be by way of several gates.

The predator-proof fence in the James Campbell Wildlife Refuge on the Hawaiian island of Oahu: the planned fence on Molokai will be of a similar design

Photograph by Pacific Rim Conservation

The area to be enclosed is where attempts are already being made, by way of decoys and broadcasts of pre-recorded calls, to attract Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis in the expectation they will commence breeding (click here).  A new colony will be out of the reach of an expected sea-level rise that will impact breeding Laysan Albatrosses on the low-lying Hawaiian islands of the North-Western chain.  Landings by Laysan Albatrosses within the restoration site have been recorded over the past several years.

Read a news article about the fencing plans here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 September 2019

Chile makes seabird mitigation measures in its trawling fisheries mandatory

The Undersecretariat for Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Government of Chile has proclaimed Resolution No. 2941 “Establish Management Measures to Reduce Incidental Catches of Seabirds in the Trawl Fisheries” of 28 August 2019 that makes adoption of defined seabird mitigation measures and good practices in trawling fisheries mandatory.

The resolution requires the adoption of management measures aimed at avoiding or minimizing the incidental catch of seabirds in various types of trawl fisheries carried out in waters under national jurisdiction or on the high seas by vessels flying the Chilean flag, through the mandatory use of equipment or devices and compliance with the best fishing practices set out in the resolution.

The required mitigation measures (in unofficial translation) include the deployment of twin bird-scaring lines (BSLs), at least 30 m long and with brightly coloured streamers (in certain fisheries and conditions bird bafflers may be used instead).  In addition, nets must be cleaned before shooting.  At night time the use or BSLs or Bird Bafflers may be dispensed with.  A snatch block must be installed on the stern of the vessel to reduce the height of radiosonde cables when used.  In certain defined trawl fisheries net binding is required to minimize the time the net is on the surface, by increasing it sink rate and diminishing the time of exposure when it can interact with seabirds.  Discard management includes avoiding discarding during trawls and an overall reduction in the at-sea disposal of fish waste.

Bird-scaring line (BSL) design for Chilean trawlers - from Resolution No. 2941

Valeria Carvajal, Managing Director, Federation of Fishing Industries of the Austral Seas writes: “In our view, this resolution provides explicit measures which are in the line with ACAP's best practices and we are hopeful it could help to reduce even more the incidental mortality of seabirds in our fishing operations.  The scientific observer programme carried out by IFOP (Instituto de Fomento Pesquero) together with the monitoring system through on-board cameras on all industrial vessels, will provide a broad observation of all fishing activity, including incidental mortality of seabirds.”

The new resolution follows on from Chile adopting its National Action Plan to Reduce Incidental Catches of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (PAN-AM/Chile).

Read of an earlier initiative by the Association of Industrial Fisheries of Chile (Asociación de Industriales Pesqueros, ASIPES) along with BirdLife International’s Marine Programme (BIMP) to reduce seabird bycatch.

With thanks to Marcelo Garcia Alvarado, Subsecretaría de Pesca y Acuicultura (SUBPESCA) and Member for Chile, ACAP Advisory Committee, and Karin Mundnich, Unidad de Asuntos Internacionales, Subsecretaria de Pesca and ACAP National Contact for Chile.

Reference:

[Chile 2007]. Plan de Acción Nacional para Reducir la Capturas Incidentales de Aves en las Pesquerías de Palangre.  38 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 September 2019

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