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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Cross-border collaboration to protect threatened species: the case of Canada, the USA and the Short-tailed Albatross

Andrea Olive (Departments of Geography and Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada) has published in the journal The Canadian Geographer on deficiencies in collaboration between Canada and the USA to improve protection of threatened species that occur within both countries.

In contrast to most species she reviews the author considers that the ACAP-listed and globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus (inexplicably categorized as a “fish” in the paper) exhibits “a high degree of coordination and cooperation” between the two countries.

The article "makes four specific recommendations to improve policy: finish recovery plans, support necessary travel and communication technology, create a consistent cross-border agency approach to cooperation, and ensure top-down implementation of collaboration.”

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Canada and the United States share 30 endangered or threatened species.  This paper examines the recovery process for species at risk under the two country’s domestic laws: Canada’s Species at Risk Act and the American Endangered Species Act.  These two countries could be working together to recover shared species, especially migratory and cross-border species.  Through comparing the recovery strategies and plans for the 30 species, and interviewing recovery team members on both sides of the border, it is shown that cross-border collaboration is limited.  The paper argues that more collaboration, data sharing, and cross-border recovery teams are needed.  Biodiversity loss is an increasing problem in both countries.”

Short-tailed Albatross at sea, photograph by Aleks Terauds

The regularly-meeting North Pacific Albatross Working Group is not mentioned specifically, nor is the US-based Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Team; both bodies have Canadian and US members.

In terms of cross-border collaboration it is noteworthy that ACAP’s own species assessment for the Short-tailed Albatross was jointly compiled by Greg Balogh of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Ken Morgan of Environment Canada.

Neither Canada nor the USA is a Party to the Albatross and Petrel Agreement, although both nations regularly attend ACAP meetings as actively participating observers.

Selected Literature:

COSEWIC 2013.  COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrusin Canada.  Ottawa: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.  xii + 55 pp.

Environment Canada, 2008.  Recovery Strategy for the Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) and the Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) in Canada.  Ottawa: Environment Canada.  vii + 44 pp.

Olive, A. 2014.  The road to recovery: Comparing Canada and US recovery strategies for shared endangered species.  The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien 58: 263-275.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2008.  Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Plan.  Anchorage: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  105 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 November 2014

Commission on Migratory Species adopts a resolution on marine debris while meeting in Ecuador

The Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP11) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention or CMS) was held in Quito, Ecuador over 4 to 9 November 2014.

Among the many matters discussed were the effects of marine debris on migratory species.  Entanglement with and ingestion (most notably floating plastic items and fragments) of marine debris deleteriously influence seabirds, including ACAP-listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, as has been regularly reported in ACAP Latest News.

Three information papers were considered on the subject of marine debris in support of the resolution.  Report 1 addresses migratory species, marine debris and its management (click here).

A Laysan Albatross corpse containing ingested plastic items, photograph by Chris Jordan

Discussions at CoP11 in Quito, chaired by Barry Baker, CMS Appointed Councillor (By-Catch) from Australia, resulted in the meeting adopting a resolution on marine debris (click here).  The draft text of the resolution, inter alia, calls on Parties “to support the development and application of technology to quantify and track marine debris and establish monitoring programmes that give particular regard, using standardized methodologies, to the prevalence of all the types of debris that may, or are known to, have impacts on migratory species; sources and pathways of these types of debris; geographic distribution of these types of debris; impacts on migratory species, within and between regions; and population level effects on migratory species.”

With thanks to Barry Baker for information.


UNEP/CMS Secretariat 2014.  Management of marine debrisNEP/CMS/COP11/Doc.23.4.6.  26 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 November 2014 

Manx Shearwaters get a boost on United Kingdom islands

Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus have bred successfully for the first time “in living memory” on Agnes and Gugh in the United Kingdom’s Isles of Scilly following a seemingly successful rat-eradication exercise.  Ten chicks filmed at their burrow entrances earlier (click here) have now fledged.  Monitoring and quarantine efforts continue on the inhabited islands to ensure rats do not become re-established as described in the latest issue of the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project’s newsletter, The Shearwater.  The two connected islands have now been rat-free for nearly a year.  The Scilly Isles are one of only two localities in England where Manx Shearwaters breed.  The other breeding locality is the island of Lundy where a rat removal operation in 2004 has resulted in its Manxie population continuing to increase in size.  The Lundy Seabird Recovery Project was set up in 2003 to help the Manx Shearwater population, which had fallen to just 300 breeding pairs.  A 2013 survey revealed a tenfold rise in numbers to 3000 pairs (click here).

Manx Shearwater chick in the Isles of Scilly, photograph by Jaclyn Pearson

Manx Shearwaters also breed on islands off Wales in the Irish Sea.  In early October the Welsh Government announced extensions to special protection areas (SPAs) out to sea around the seabird-breeding islands of Grassholm (2 km), Skomer and Skokholm (4 km) and Bardsey (9 km).  Skomer and Skokholm are estimated to be home to over 300 000 and 45 000 pairs of Manx Shearwaters, respectively (approximately half the global population) with Bardsey holding another 16 000 pairs.  The Welsh islands “also host and support cutting-edge research by leading universities into the ecology of the Manx shearwater and other species, which helps inform legal and management changes that support their conservation” (click here).

“These sites will contribute to the network of protected special sites at sea, used by breeding seabirds aiding the colonies to be healthier and more resilient to other issues such as the effects of climate change, like the recent winter storms and sea temperature rise.”

While up in Scotland plans continue to eradicate rats from the Shiant Isles in the hope that Manx Shearwaters will return to breed (click here).


Anon. 2014.  Welsh Government announces protected sites at sea.  The Seabird Group Newsletter 127: 11.

Pearson, J., Marshall, E. & Titterton, L. 2014.  Shearwater chicks successfully fledged on St Agnes & Gugh – first time in living memory!  The Shearwater 4: 1.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 November 2014

Incubation costs in seabirds, including some albatrosses and petrels, get reviewed

Akiko Shoji (Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada) and colleagues have published early-view in the ornithological journal Ibis on aspects of incubation in seabirds, including five ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Energy costs during breeding play an important role in the evolution of life history traits. Seabirds show substantial variation in both incubation shift length (ISL) and metabolic rates.  However, it is still unclear how variation in life history traits relates to incubation metabolic rates (IMR). Here, we examine the relationship between IMR and life history traits, including ISL, fledging strategy (precocial to altricial), incubation period, nest location (surface vs. underground) and clutch mass relative to adult body mass for 30 species of seabirds collated from the literature.  Using both conventional non-phylogenetic and phylogenetic generalized least-squares approaches, we show that IMR is negatively associated with ISL, relative clutch mass and with underground nesting, while fledging strategy and incubation period have no impact on IMR once phylogeny is accounted for.  Maximum likelihood reconstructions further suggest than ancestral seabirds had average ISL and relative clutch mass, and were surface nesters.  We conclude that lower metabolic rates during incubation are associated with both an increased incubation shift length that allows animals to travel farther, as well as the evolutionary emergence of underground nesting that requires less social interaction.”

The Grey-headed Albatross is included in the study, photograph by Richard Phillips


Shoji, A., Elliott, K.H., Aris-Brosou, S., Wilson, R.P. & Gaston, A.J. 2014.  Predictors of incubation costs in seabirds: an evolutionary perspective.  Ibis DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12219.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 November 2014

Female Black-browed Albatrosses “exhibit more variable behaviours” when foraging than do males

Samantha Patrick (Department of Biosciences, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK) and Henri Weimerskirch (Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Villiers-en-Bois, France) have published in the journal Biology Letters on gender differences in foraging behaviour by ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Specialists and generalists often coexist within a single population, but the biological drivers of individual strategies are not fully resolved.  When sexes differ in their foraging strategy, this can lead them to different environmental conditions and stability across their habitat range.  As such, sexual segregation, combined with dominance, may lead to varying levels of specialization between the sexes.  Here, we examine spatial and temporal niche width (intraindividual variability in aspects of foraging behaviour) of male and female black-browedalbatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys), and its consequences for fitness.  We show that females, where maximum foraging range is under fluctuating selection, exhibit more variable behaviours and appear more generalist than males, who are under directional selection to forage close to the colony.  However within each sex, successful birds had a much narrower niche width across most behaviours, suggesting some specialization is adaptive in both sexes.  These results demonstrate that while there are sex differences in niche width, the fitness benefit of specialization in spatial distribution is strong in this wide-ranging seabird.”

Black-browed Albatross at sea, photograph by John Larsen


Patrick, S.C. & Weimerskirch, H. 2014.  Consistency pays: sex differences and fitness consequences of behavioural specialization in a wide-ranging seabird. Biology Letters  doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0630.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 November 2014