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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Identification of seabirds captured in New Zealand fisheries: White-capped Albatrosses and White-chinned Petrels predominated in 2019/2020

White capped Albatross Laurie Johnson Ellyn Bousman Lentz

White-capped Albatross by Ellyn Bousman Lentz‎, from a photograph by Laurie Smaglick Johnson

Elizabeth (‘Biz”) Bell (Wildlife Management International Ltd, Blenheim, New Zealand) has produced s report for the Conservation Services Programme of the Department of Conservation on seabirds captured in New Zealand fisheries over 2019/2020.  White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis (Vulnerable) and White-capped Albatrosses Thalassarche steadi (Near Threatened) accounted for half of the 250 returned corpses (comprising 24 taxa) examined; 173 from trawl fisheries and 82 from longline vessels.  The report is the latest of a series produced annually over the last two decades (see the report’s cited references).

The report’s Abstract follows:

“New Zealand w aters support a diverse range of seabird species, but much of the commercial fishing activity in the region overlaps with their ranges. The accurate identification of seabirds captured in New Zealand fisheries is vital for determining the potential impact of fisheries on these populations. Between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020, a total of 844 seabirds were reported as incidental interactions with commercial fishing vessels by on‐board New Zealand Government observers; of these 250 were returned for necropsy and 594 were interactions (298) or photographed (296) as dead or alive captures.  There were 250 seabirds comprising 24 taxa incidentally killed as bycatch and returned for necropsy. Birds were returned from 16 longline (n = 82 seabirds), 35 trawl (n = 163 seabirds) and five set net (n = 5 seabirds) vessels and were dominated numerically by five species: white‐chinned petrel (n = 80, 32%), New Zealand white‐capped albatross (n = 43, 17.2%), sooty shearwater (n = 28, 11.2%), Salvin’s albatross (n = 27, 10.8%) and Buller’s albatross (n = 27, 10.8%). These five species accounted for 82% of all returns. All birds returned from longline fisheries had injuries consistent with being hooked in the bill, throat, or wing. In contrast, most birds (74.2%) returned from trawl fisheries were killed through entanglement in the net, cod‐end, or pound, with 18.4% likely to have been killed by warp interaction or entanglement. Eight birds were killed by striking the deck of the trawl vessel. Birds had the same mean fat scores in comparison to birds from the last fishing year, and discards, including offal, appear to continue to be an attractant for many seabirds.  In addition to the seabirds that were returned for necropsy, examination of the Ministry for Primary Industries Central Observer Database (COD) and images provided by Government observers gave a total of a further 594 seabirds that were reported as interactions or photographed (as dead or alive captures) aboard 51 fishing vessels (and may include some non‐capture interactions). Almost half (47.3%) of the seabirds reported in these interactions were released alive.  Out of these 594 records of seabird interactions, photographs were taken of 296 seabirds consisting of 15 taxa. Image quality varied widely, with poor images being particularly common for birds that were alive and seen on‐board for short periods. Images of dead birds have improved with multiple images taken for each specimen. Recommendations are made to improve photo‐identifications in the future.”

Reference:

Bell, E.[A.]. 2021. INT2019-02:  Identification of seabirds captured in New Zealand fisheries, 1 July 2019- 30 June 2020.  Blenheim: Wildlife Management International Ltd.  32 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 July 2021

Monitoring Black-browed Albatrosses and Southern Giant Petrels in the South Atlantic in 2020/21

 Steeple Jason 5 Ian Strange

Black-browed Albatrosses breeding on Steeple Jason

Sarah Crofts and Andrew Stanworth (Falklands Conservation) have produced a report that details results of monitoring study populations of eight seabird species, including the ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris and the Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus, that bred in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* during 2020/21.

Extracts from the report’s summary follow:

“The Falkland Islands support seabird populations that are of global importance; both numerically, and in terms of conservation status. Accordingly, fluctuations in local populations may substantially affect the global conservation status of these species.

The Falkland Islands Seabird Monitoring Programme (FISMP) monitors Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) at 11 sites (17 colonies), Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes c. chrysocome) at five sites (14 colonies) and Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) at one site (one colony). King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) and Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) are monitored at single, but key sites, in terms of population numbers.  Southern Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus) is monitored at one site (two colonies), Imperial Shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps) at three sites (four colonies) and Brown Skua (Catharacta antarctica) at one site (four colonies).

Black-browed Albatross breeding pair numbers at the monitoring sites at Steeple Jason showed an overall decrease of 1 % when compared with 2019. Taking into account annual fluctuations, the overall FISMP trend suggests a stable population. The overall breeding success in 2020 remained below the annual average for the sixth consecutive year, although was improved when compared with 2019.

Southern Giant Petrel Steeple Dec 70 Ian Strange 2

A Southern Giant Petrel breeding on Steeple Jason

Photographs by Ian Strange

Southern Giant Petrel breeding pair numbers at Steeple Jason increased by 6 % when compared with 2019. The overall increase reflected the positive trend at the Neck colony, whereas the Northwest colony continued to decline. In 2020, breeding success of 15 % was well below the long-term annual average of 32 %.”

With thanks to Michelle Winnard, Communications and Marketing Officer, Falklands Conservation.  45 pp.

Reference:

Crofts, S. & Stanworth, A. 2021.  Falkland Islands Seabird Monitoring Programme - Annual Report 2020/2021 (SMP28).  Stanley: Falklands Conservation.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 July 2021

*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.

Pitt Island’s sole Antipodean Albatross fledgling is doing well at sea

Pitt Island Antipodean Albatross map

Flight map for Pitt Island's Antipodean Albatross fledgling as at 14 July 2021

A single pair of globally Endangered and Nationally Critical Antipodean Albatrosses Diomedea antipodensis has bred on Pitt Island in New Zealand’s Chatham Islands group in recent years (click here). The latest chick was banded (R-50441) and satellite-tagged on 23 December 2020.  By 9 March it had flown over 19 000 km, spending it’s time to the east of New Zealand (click here).  A recent update on Facebook by David Boyle on the bird’s travels at sea shows that it has remained relatively close to New Zealand, within and outside the country’s Economic Exclusion Zone:

“Just before Christmas we put a satellite tracker on the Antipodes Wanderer chick on Pitt Island - it fledged a few days later and seven months later it’s still going strong.  The map’s a bit of a mess but he went out east to the Louisville Ridge first off (the long chain of seamounts to the east of the Chathams), then headed west and spent some time off East Cape/Gisborne before doing a big loop south almost to Antipodes Island before heading back up the east coast of New Zealand and round the top into the Tasman for ages and now he's come back round the top of New Zealand and is currently about 500 km north of the Chathams.”

Antipodean chick Pitt Island Dec 2020 3

Pitt Island's Antipodean Albatross chick close to fledging in December 2020

View the Pitt Island albatross flight map that shows the bird (206373 R-50441) had flown nearly 45 000 km by 14 July.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 July 2021

Toroa! An Antipodean Albatross is competing in the Tokyo Olympics today

Toroa on launch day 2

Off to the Olympics: Toroa on its launch day, being sailed by Pete Burling and Blair Tuke; photograph from Ruby Dreifuss, Live Ocean

ACAP Latest News has previously reported on medal-winning 2016 Olympic, America’s Cup and Round-the-World sailors, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke from New Zealand, who have been sailing in support of the globally Endangered Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis, a New Zealand endemic, via the marine conservation charitable trust, Live Ocean.  This year they have been training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, competing in their 49er skiff named Toroa, the Maori name for a great albatross in the genus Diomedea.

 Antipodean Albatross off North Cape NZ Kirk Zufelt

Antipodean Albatross off North Cape, New Zealand; photograph by Kirk Zufelt

Read about the New Zealand team and their competitors at the 2020 Olympics here.

Pete and Blair's first race in the Men’s Skiff -49er event is today in the Enoshima Yacht Harbour.  The final medal race is on 2 August.  Here’s hoping Toroa will be moving fast in support of its namesake albatross!

Thanks to Ruby Dreifuss and Sally Paterson, Live Ocean.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 July 2021

Tristan Albatross chicks on Gough are doing well after the first bait drop against the island’s killer mice

Tristan Albatross 9 Tom McSherry

Yawning for the camera. A Tristan Albatross on Gough Island, photograph by Tom McSherry

To date, the Gough Island Restoration Programme (GIRP) has completed the first bait drop over the island to eradicate the island’s albatross-killing mice and is waiting for good weather to undertake the required second drop.  In the interim researchers on the island have continued to monitor breeding by the Critically Endangered (and near-endemic) Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, as recently reported via the GIRP Facebook page.

“Our team just returned from two of our 11 Tristan Albatross monitoring sites– Gonydale and Tafelkop – and reported no nest failures since their last check!  This is literally unheard of at this time of year.  Even though we haven’t completed the second bait drop yet we can already get a sense of what life would be like on Gough without the mice.”

Watch a video as GIRP Researcher Michelle Risi imparts the news in front of a Tristan Albatross chick in the Tafelkop monitoring colony, first set up in the 1980s.

ACAP’s Information Officer has a particular interest in the fate of the Tristan Albatross on Gough.  He set up both long-term study colonies - on Tafelkop in the 1980s and in Gonydale in the 2006/07 and 2007/08 breeding seasons - when all the occupied nests in the two localities were staked and breeding adults metal and colour-banded during incubation, with their surviving chicks metal banded later in the year.  Monitoring has continued ever since with pairs of field workers being appointed on an annual basis.

Access the latest (No. 8, May 2021) and earlier editions of Island Restoration News, the GIRP newsletter here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 July 2021