Getting around in the southern Indian Ocean: Critically Endangered Amsterdam Albatrosses visit Australian, Namibian and South African EEZ waters

Jean-Baptiste Thiebot (Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé, Villiers-en-Bois, France) and colleagues have published in the journal Endangered Species Research on the results of at-sea tracking of Amsterdam Albatrosses Diomedea amsterdamensis.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Long-lived animals typically exhibit several stages throughout their life-cycle during which their distribution may vary substantially, which may challenge the relevance of protection measures to them.  Here we surveyed individual movements of the critically endangered Amsterdam albatross from Amsterdam Island, southern Indian Ocean, during all its life-cycle stages.  Our goal was to identify, from the areas visited by the albatrosses, which coastal states share responsibility in regulating industrial fishing in their own Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) in order to promote the preservation of this species.   Using modern, stage-relevant tracking techniques (satellite tags, GPS and GLS loggers), we surveyed 361 at-sea trips in 93 individuals over 9 years, covering incubation, brooding, chick-rearing, sabbatical, failed-breeding, juvenile and immature stages. Our data show that Amsterdam albatrosses exhibit a wide and variable foraging radius (from 326 ± 193 km during brooding to 5519 ± 766 km for immatures) and at-sea distribution across stages, putting them beyond the French EEZ of Amsterdam Island for all or part of the trips surveyed in each stage.  The albatrosses visited the EEZs of France, South Africa, Australia, Madagascar, Mauritius and Namibia.   Wider-scale distribution of the non-breeders took them to more countries' Economic Exclusive Zones: 3–4 (France, South Africa, Australia and Namibia) versus 1–3 (France, Madagascar, Mauritius) for individuals in non-breeding and breeding stages, respectively. This study stresses the relevance of obtaining synoptic information on threatened species' distribution to address conservation questions, especially regarding the breeding versus non-breeding categories of the populations."

An Amsterdam Albatross off South Africa, photograph by Trevor Hardaker


Thiebot, J.-B., Delord, K., Marteau, C. & Weimerskirch, H. 2014.  Stage-dependent distribution of the critically endangered Amsterdam albatross in relation to Economic Exclusive Zones.  Endangered Species Research 23: 263-276.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 April 2014

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