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.

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

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A hooked Black Petrel gets a reprieve

Hook Black Petrel WMIL 3

The fishing hook with cut line visible on the Black Petrel's chest

The ACAP-listed Black Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni, a New Zealand endemic, has both a global and a national conservation status of Vulnerable.  The species breeds on only two islands, with a detailed long-term study being undertaken on Great Barrier/Aotea by Wildlife Management International (WMIL).  Annual burrow monitoring in the study colony this summer revealed an incubating bird with a fishing hook embedded in its chest.  The non-profit organisation Southern Seabirds reports on its Facebook Page on one bird that got a lucky reprieve:

“A recreational fisher clearly hooked this black petrel and was unable to remove the hook.  The trace was cut nice and short which meant the bird returned safely to its burrow on Great Barrier Island and continued to incubate its egg.  A team led by Biz Bell at WMIL had the tools required to remove the hook which was only a few millimetres into flesh.  Happily, it was still incubating its egg when last checked a few days later.  Removing a hook is only possible with the barb crushed by pliers or snipped off with hand-held bolt cutters - definitely worth having on you when you are fishing!”

Hook Black Petrel WMIL 1

The hook after removal, photographs from Wildlife Management International

To learn more rdownload the ACAP Hook Removal from Seabirds Guide.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 February 2021

UPDATED WITH VIDEO. Southern Giant Petrels kill threatened Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses on Gough Island: a new conservation concern?

 Southern Giant Petrel AYNA Risi

Male Southern Giant Petrel attacking an incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross on Gough Island; captured with a motion-sensor camera

Michelle Risi (RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy, UK) and colleagues have published in the journal Polar Biology on Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus attacking and killing incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses Thalassarche chlororhynchos (Endangered) on Gough Island.

Southern Giant Petrel depredating breeding Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross on Gough Island

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Giant petrels Macronectes spp. are the largest avian predator-scavengers in the Southern Ocean and feed both by direct predation and by scavenging carrion. However, they are not considered to be predators of adult albatrosses. We report the first records of Southern Giant Petrels M. giganteus attacking and killing incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses Thalassarche chlororhynchos on Gough Island. From 2017 to 2019, a total of 87 adult carcasses were found near nests within long-term monitoring areas. In 2019, 16 motion-activated cameras filmed 32 nests between September and January, during incubation up until chicks were no longer guarded by their parents. Camera footage revealed at least six different male Southern Giant Petrels independently attacking 11 incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, killing and feeding on 5 of those. We also recorded a Southern Giant Petrel attacking a brooding Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and carrying its chick away. Of these camera-monitored nests breeding success was 18.75%, nest failure was due to parent mortality (n = 6), chick mortality (3) and nest abandonment (17), with giant petrels being confirmed or strongly suspected in at least 14 of 26 cases (54%). We observed these attacks in two out of 11 study areas, but it is uncertain whether this behaviour occurs elsewhere on Gough Island, or whether it is a novel hunting method learnt by a few individuals. However, if this behaviour spreads across albatross colonies, the resulting increase in adult mortality could have a significant impact on this endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross population.”

With thanks to Michelle Risi for photograph and video clip.

Reference:

Risi, M.M., Jones, C.W., Osborne, A.M., Steinfurth, A. & Oppel, S. 2021.  Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus depredating breeding Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses Thalassarche chlororhynchos on Gough Island.  Polar Biology doi.org/10.1007/s00300-021-02810-x.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 February 2021, updated 20 February 2021

ACAP’s new Tristan and Waved Albatross infographics are designed to support this year’s World Albatross Day

Tristan Albatross infographic colour 

Why is the Tristan Albatross Critically Endangered?  An infographic for World Albatross Day 2021

Infographics depicting the conservation threats faced by the Critically Endangered Tristan Diomedea dabbenena and Waved Phoebastria irrorata Albatrosses have been produced to support this year’s World Albatross Day on 19 June and its chosen theme “Ensuring Albatross-friendly Fisheries”.  The ACAP Species Infographics have been designed to help inform the general public, including school learners.  They serve to complement the detailed and referenced ACAP Species Assessments and to accompany the more concise ACAP Species Summaries.

Waved Albatross infographic colour

The infographic for the Critically Endangered Waved Albatross

French and Spanish versions of the two infographics will be added as they become available.  The infographics may be freely downloaded at a high resolution to allow for their printing and display as  posters by going to ACAP Species Infographics.  They also appear in the ACAP Species Summaries gallery.  Please note they are only being made available for personal use or when engaging in activities that will aid in drawing attention to the conservation crisis faced by the world’s albatrosses and petrels – when ACAP will be pleased to receive a mention.  It is envisaged further infographics will be produced as new featured species are chosen to support future World Albatross Days.

Namasri Niumim

Infographic illustrator, Namasri ‘Namo’ Niumim at her worktable

The two infographics have been created by Thai illustrator Namasri ‘Namo’ Niumim from Bangkok, who is currently based in Wellington, New Zealand.  Namo, who works in gouache, is a graduate of the School of Architecture and Design at the King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design.  She used preliminary concept designs and texts by World Albatross Day Group member, Michelle Risi, along with photographs supplied by ACAP supporters to guide her work.

With thanks to Jonathon Barrington, Kate Huyvaert, Gustavo Jimenez, Namasri Niumim, Stephanie Prince and Michelle Risi for their inputs to the infographics.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 February 2021

Competitive exclusion of females by males? Sexual segregation during foraging in Scopoli’s Shearwaters

Scopolis Shearwater Pep Arcos

Scopoli's Shearwater, photograph by Pep Arcos

José Manuel Reyes‐González (Institut de Recerca de la Biodiversitat, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Animal Ecology on studying sexual differences in foraging behaviour in Scopoli’s Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea.

The paper’s abstract follows:

  • “Sexual segregation in foraging strategies has been little studied in marine species with slight Sexual Size Dimorphism (SSD), particularly regarding the role of environmental conditions and fishery activities. Sexual differences in fishery attendance are of particular concern because uneven mortality associated with bycatch may exacerbate impacts in wildlife populations.
  • Using a seabird species with slight SSD, the Scopoli’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), we assessed sexual differences in foraging strategies and evaluated whether annual environmental conditions and fishery activity shaped such differences.
  • We used a four‐year dataset combining bird GPS tracking, stable isotope analysis, the North Atlantic Oscillation index (NAO, as main proxy of the annual environmental conditions), and fishing vessel positioning data (Vessel Monitoring System, VMS) from the North Western Mediterranean, a region under intense fishery pressure.
  • From 2012 to 2015, we tracked 635 foraging trips from 78 individuals. Females showed a greater foraging effort, a lower fishery attendance, a lower trophic level, and a narrower isotopic niche width than males. Moreover, in years with unfavourable environmental conditions, both sexes showed a lower fishery attendance and increased foraging effort compared to the year with most favourable conditions.
  • Our results revealed that environmental conditions influence space use, feeding resources, and fishery attendance differently in males and females, overall suggesting competitive exclusion of females by males from main foraging areas and feeding resources, particularly in unfavourable environmental conditions. We highlight the importance of evaluating sexual segregation under disparate environmental conditions, particularly in species with slight SSD, since segregation may pass otherwise unnoticed if only years with similar environmental conditions are considered. The higher fishery attendance of males likely explains the male‐biased bycatch ratio for this species. Thus, inter‐sexual differences in foraging strategies can lead to an unbalanced exposure to relevant threats and have implications for the conservation of long‐lived species.”

Reference:

Reyes‐González, J.M., De Felipe, F., Morera‐Pujol, V., Soriano‐Redondo, A., Navarro‐Herrero, L., Zango, L., García‐Barcelona, S., Ramos, R. & Jacob González‐Solís, J.  2021.  Sexual segregation in the foraging behaviour of a slightly dimorphic seabird: influence of the environment and fishery activity.  Journal of Animal Ecology doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13437.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 February 2021

Increasing up the food chain: mercury levels in five South Atlantic albatrosses and petrels

Grey headed Albatross 54 years Bird Island Jen James Steph Winnard shrunk

Grey-headed Albatross and chick on Bird Island, photograph by Stephanie Prince

 José Seco (Department of Chemistry, University of Aveiro, Portugal) and colleagues have published in the journal Environmental Pollution on mercury levels in Southern Ocean biota, including by analysis of feathers of chicks from five ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels collected on Bird Island in the South Atlantic.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Biomagnification of mercury (Hg) in the Scotia Sea food web of the Southern Ocean was examined using the stable isotope ratios of nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) as proxies for trophic level and feeding habitat, respectively. Total Hg and stable isotopes were measured in samples of particulate organic matter (POM), zooplankton, squid, myctophid fish, notothenioid fish and seabird tissues collected in two years (austral summers 2007/08 and 2016/17). Overall, there was extensive overlap in δ13C values across taxonomic groups suggesting similarities in habitats, with the exception of the seabirds, which showed some differences, possibly due to the type of tissue analysed (feathers instead of muscle). δ15N showed increasing enrichment across groups in the order POM to zooplankton to squid to myctophid fish to notothenioid fish to seabirds. There were significant differences in δ15N and δ13C values among species within taxonomic groups, reflecting inter-specific variation in diet. Hg concentrations increased with trophic level, with the lowest values in POM (0.0005 ± 0.0002 μg g−1 dw) and highest values in seabirds (3.88 ± 2.41 μg g−1 in chicks of brown skuas Stercorarius antarcticus). Hg concentrations tended to be lower in 2016/17 than in 2007/08 for mid-trophic level species (squid and fish), but the opposite was found for top predators (i.e. seabirds), which had higher levels in the 2016/17 samples. This may reflect an interannual shift in the Scotia Sea marine food web, caused by the reduced availability of a key prey species, Antarctic krill Euphausia superba. In 2016/17, seabirds would have been forced to feed on higher trophic-level prey, such as myctophids, that have higher Hg burdens. These results suggest that changes in the food web are likely to affect the pathway of mercury to Southern Ocean top predators.”

With thanks to Richard Phillips.

Reference:

Seco, J., Aparício, S., Brierley, A.S., Bustamante, P., Ceia, F.R., Coelho, J.P., Philips, R.A., Ryan A., Saunders, R.A., Fielding, S., Gregory, S., Matias, M., Pardal, M.A., Pereira, E., Stowasser, G., Tarling, G.A., Xavier, J.C. 2021.  Mercury biomagnification in a Southern Ocean food web.  Environmental Pollution 275. doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2021.116620.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 February 2021