Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Latest News

ACAP Latest News

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.

Contact the ACAP Information Officer if you wish to have your news featured.

Click here to subscribe to ACAP News Click here to subscribe to 'ACAP Latest News'

An ‘Evohe Albicake’ baked at sea misses the World Albatross Day Bake Off

Helen Jess Evohe cake 

Helen Fairlamb (left) and Jess Tatham with their albicake in the Evohe galley

World Albatross Day, and its Bake Off competition, are both well past but there is one more ‘albicake’ to celebrate.  Aviculturist Helen Fairlamb was meant to be on Gough Island at the time of 'WAD2020' back on 16 June – when she would have been part of a team attempting to eradicate the island's mice that month.  But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the postponement of the Gough Island Restoration Programme (GIRP) for a year at least.  Helen was in Cape Town to travel to Gough as a passenger along with other team members on the New Zealand yacht R.S.V. Evohe in March to start catching and caring for two ‘non-target’ land birds (Gough Finch and Gough Moorhen) before the rest of the eradication team arrived.  Previously she had cared for land birds in temporary captivity during the Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project.  Instead, she signed on the 25-metre yacht as a crew member “for the adventure” and spent no less than 111 days at sea, sailing from Cape Town all the way back to New Zealand.  The Evohe first sailed to Gough to pick up GIRP team members already on the island since February, made a stop at Ascension Island and then went through the Panama Canal into the Pacific and back into the southern hemisphere, so crossing the Equator twice.

Evohe cake 5 

The Evohe albicake:  nest, hatching egg, mouse and liquorice twigs

Helen has written to ACAP Latest News about baking an ‘albicake’ aboard the yacht at sea: “We spent World Albatross Day in the mid-Pacific Ocean, about two weeks south-west of the Galapagos Archipelago.  It was a squally day and we managed to collect 70 litres of tropically warm rainwater to top up our freshwater.  Whilst the cake wasn't too pretty, the context was that all baking took place aboard the Evohe in four-metre swells!  The cake is meant to be a pipping Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross chick (banana loaf iced in marzipan) on a nest (coconut sponge) with an invasive House Mouse nearby (strawberry sponge).  With the galley and all our equipment and ingredients constantly moving, it took crew member Jess Tatham and I all afternoon to make”.

With no means aboard to submit a photo of their cake, Helen’s and Jess’ effort did not get to the Bake Off judges.  A pity, as they well may have recommended a special award for baking a cake in a rough sea!  But they both will receive an entry certificate to mark their effort to help save albatrosses by raising awareness of their plight.

As well as baking, Helen and Jess kept a look-out for seabirds on the long voyage: “we were lucky enough to see 11-12 species of albatrosses during our time on Evohe.  Sea bird spots were the highlight of our trip!”

Helen is now looking for bird monitoring/research work in New Zealand but hopes finally to get to Gough if the eradication goes ahead next year as is intended.  Then she might be able to bake a giant petrel cake in time for WAD2021!

Read more about the Evohe’s long voyage here.

With thanks to Helen Fairlamb.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 September 2020

ACAP Small Grant project “Development of a bird-scaring line compliance monitoring device” gets underway in South Africa

 BSL Compliance Monitoring Device

 BirdLife South Africa's Reason Nyengera (right) and CapMarine’s Sayalibonga Njokweni aboard a hake trawl vessel

With funding from ACAP’s 2019 round of the Small Grants Programme, BirdLife South Africa and Imvelo Blue Environment Consultancy (IBEC) have partnered to develop a compliance monitoring device that records the mechanical tension of a deployed bird-scaring line (BSL) and converts it into an electronic signal through a process called mechatronic engineering.  The technical development has been independently undertaken in South Africa by Nelson Miranda of Argonaut Science.  A prototype, invented by IBEC founder Sihle Victor Ngcongo, has been produced that is able to record the tension or pull by the BSL every one or two seconds while simultaneously recording the time and date (click here).

The ACAP small grant is allowing for further development of the pilot device with the objectives of:
a) Refining the data collection software and adjusting its sensitivity to various deployment conditions at sea, such and weather and fluctuations in tension, as well as to potential tampering with the BSL or deployment method;
b) Capturing data through a USB port, eliminating the need to remove the device from its attachment point;
c) Tamper proofing the device and recorded data;
d) Adapting the device for ease of use on various fleets and different types of BSLs; and
e) Developing tension profiles that can be used to analyse and validate the data in the absence of an observer.
It is considered the monitoring device will be easily deployed on all types of fishing gear requiring the use of bird-scaring lines. At present assessing compliance with mitigation measures is only possible with an on-board observer. However, observer programmes are seldom able to achieve 100% observer coverage of fishing effort. The device once developed and deployed should be able to monitor BSL deployment 100% of the time in the absence of an observer. The device will thus address a concern with compliance expressed at the ACAP Advisory Committee at its 2019 meeting (AC11).

BSL Compliance Monitoring Device Reason Nyengera

A trawl vessel crew member holds the compliance monitoring device that aims to record mechanical tension of bird-scaring lines

So far there have been 13 deployments on pelagic and demersal longline and demersal trawl fleets, working out of Durban, Gansbaai, Cape Town and Saldanha Bay harbours along South Africa’s coast.  Further trials are ongoing providing information on the compliance device's effectiveness and resilience.

With thanks to Andrea Angel and Reason Nyengera, BirdLife South Africa.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 September 2020

Identifying a winter “nursery” for Great Shearwaters in the northern hemisphere

Great Shearwaters 

 Two Great Shearwaters interact at sea, photograph by Dann Blackwood

Kevin Powers (Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Scituate, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Marine Ornithology on at-sea tracking  of Great Shearwaters Ardenna gravis in the north-western Atlantic Ocean.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Movements of Great Shearwaters Ardenna gravis wintering in the Northwest Atlantic showed age-based spatial and temporal flexibility, with foraging tactics linked to a defined physical preference of their primary prey. From 2013 to 2018, we tracked 58 Great Shearwaters during their wintering season using platform terminal transmitters deployed in the same area of the southwest Gulf of Maine. Utilization distributions (UDs) for individual birds were created from convex hulls, which were then combined for spatial and temporal analyses. Of the 95% kernel UDs, 55% were contained within the Gulf of Maine and the remainder extended to the Scotian Shelf off Nova Scotia and the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. Analysis of fecal DNA from tagged birds and others captured with them indicated that Northern sand lance Ammodytes dubius were the primary prey while in the Gulf of Maine. This relationship was supported by the overlap of UDs and sand lance habitat. The spatial occurrence of sand lance from bottomfish trawl survey data demonstrated that these fish preferred shallow water (< 100 m deep) with substrates consisting of high sand content (> 50%) and grain sizes ranging from 0.35-2.00 mm in diameter. These same properties were associated and spatially aligned with the collective 25% kernel UD of Great Shearwaters. Necropsy of bycaught Great Shearwaters from an area that overlapped in space and time with tagged individuals and sand lance habitat demonstrated that most birds (89%) were young (0-2 years), based on gonadal development, molt score, and/or bursa of Fabricius. Coupling demographic information from necropsies with spatial habits and movement timing of tagged birds suggests this region serves as a winter “nursery” for Great Shearwaters.”

Access a related paper on Great Shearwaters at sea by Kevin Powers here.

Reference:

Powers, K.D., Wiley, D.N., Robuck, A.R., Olson, Z.H., Welch, L.J., Thompson, M.A. & Kaufman, L. 2020.  Spatiotemporal characterization of non-breeding Great Shearwaters Ardenna gravis within their wintering range.  Marine Ornithology 48: 215-229.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 September 2020

Presentations on albatrosses and bycatch at the Pacific Seabird Group’s 2020 meeting

PSG 2020 

The Pacific Seabird Group held its 47th Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, USA over 12 - 15 February this year.  A list of presentations on albatrosses and seabird bycatch by fisheries with their senior authors follows.  Their abstracts may be found online.  Note next year’s annual meeting will be a ‘virtual' one, held online.  Abstracts of earlier meetings may be found here.

*******************

Using high resolution satellite imagery to count nesting pacific albatross.  Jane Dolliver

Short-Tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) recent and historical nesting activity at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.  Theresa Geelhoed

Seabird interactions with the catcher-processor trawl fleet targeting Pacific Hake off the U.S. west coast.  Amanda Gladics

NOAA Fisheries National Seabird Program: advancing conservation, sustainable fisheries, and ecosystem-based management.  Annette Henry

Seabird sensory ecology, morphology and bycatch.  Ariel Heswall

Mice to eat you: uncovering the diet of invasive House Mice.  Wieteke Holthuijzen

species identification by deep learning with bycatch seabird photo taken in pelagic longline scientific observer research.  Yukiko Inoue

Short-tailed Albatross translocation: how'd it go, and what's up now? Jessy Jacobs [Note no results given in abstract]

Using Bayesian models to estimate Black-footed Albatross bycatch in the U.S. west coast demersal longline Sablefish fishery.  Jason Jannot

International cooperation to reduce interactions between seabirds and fisheries.  Mi Ae Kim

A review of seabird bycatch and mitigation efforts in Alaska fisheries from 2010 through 2018.  Joseph Krieger

Development of automated seabird species recognition for use in electronic monitoring applications.  Braden Moore

Seabird restoration - addressing introduced predators and rapidly rising sea level.  Jay Penniman (Black-footed & Laysan Albatrosses)

A summary of albatross band recovery data in the Hawaii deep and shallow set longline fisheries.  John Peschon

Global seabird bycatch assessment in tuna longline fisheries with focus on the southern hemisphere.  Yasuko Suzuki

Midway Seabird Protection Project - the final countdown.  Jared Underwood

Reference:

Pacific Seabird Group 47th Annual Meeting, Portland, Oregon, 12 - 15 February 2020.  Book of Abstracts.  94 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 September 2020

** DEADLINE EXTENDED ** BirdLife South Africa makes a call for a Mouse-Free Marion Project Manager

** UPDATED **

Please Note:  An extension has been granted for expressions of interest for the Mouse Free Marion Project Manager. The new deadline is 30 September 2020. All submissions already received will still be considered for this contract position.

 Grey headed Albatross mouse wound Fitztitute 

A Grey-headed Albatross chick ‘scalped’ by mice on Marion Island, photograph courtesy of the FitzPatrick Institute

South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island is overrun by introduced House Mice Mus musculus, which in the last decade have taken to attacking and killing the island’s albatrosses and petrels, notably chicks of the globally threatened Grey-headed Thalassarche chrysostoma and Wandering Diomedea exulans Albatrosses (click here for previous ACAP Latest News posts on Marion’s mice).

 To address the problem a call has now been made for Expressions of Interest for “a highly qualified, dedicated and dynamic” Mouse-Free Marion Project Manager.  The project is a joint endeavour between the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and the environmental NGO BirdLife South Africa, as described on the “Mouse Free Marion” website.

The scope of the project manager’s work will include reviewing and refining the Mouse-Free Marion Project and its operational plans and assisting with the appointment of the Operations Manager and the eradication team.  Qualifying requirements for the position include a minimum of 10 years’ experience in project/business management at a senior level.  Project management experience in island-based invasive mammal eradication will be an additional advantage.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant travel restrictions has led to pauses in eradication projects on New Zealand’s Auckland Island, United Kingdom’s Gough Island and the USA’s Midway Atoll, all supporting large populations of ACAP-listed species.  Perhaps these three islands, along with Marion, can still all be declared free of introduced mammals by the end of the decade.

The Project Manager will be based in Cape Town, South Africa.  The initial contract period will be for 2.5 – 3 years, with a six-month probation period based on initial progress achieved. The position is being advertised internationally and is not restricted to South African citizens/permanent residents.   Assumption of contract would be by 1 January 2021; closing date for applications: 3 September 2020. The eradication exercise is currently proposed to be undertaken in the winter of 2023.

Apply to Isabel Human (isabel.human@birdlife.org.za) with the subject title MOUSE-FREE MARION PROJECT MANAGER.  For further information, contact Alistair McInnes (alistair.mcinnes@birdlife.org.za).  Read more details here.

With thanks to Carol Jacobs, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries & Nini van der Merwe, BirdLife South Africa for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 August 2022, updated 07 September 2020