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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Female-female Laysan Albatross pairs fledge chicks from fostered eggs

Lindsay Young (Pacific Rim Conservation, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA) and colleagues have published online in the open-access journal Marine Ornithology on the results of translocating and fostering eggs of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis are large seabirds that breed primarily in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  In the 1960s, they began colonizing new sites across the Pacific, including the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kaua’i.  Albatross were first recorded at PMRF in 1967, were breeding by 1977 and by 2012 had a colony of 84 nesting pairs.  In 1988, a bird-aircraft strike hazard reduction program was begun in which adults were hazed and eggs were destroyed.  In 2005, a foster parent program was initiated in which inviable eggs from Laysan Albatross pairs on Kaua’i’s North Shore were replaced with viable eggs from PMRF.  From 2009 to 2012, we placed 105 eggs from PMRF in foster nests.  Hatching success of foster eggs (39%) was low because most foster eggs (71%) were placed with female-female pairs, which are known to have low hatching success compared with male-female pairs (32% vs. 63%).  Fledging success of foster nests (93%) was high, but overall reproductive success of foster nests (36%) was lower than average for this species because of the low hatching rate.  This project contributed to the conservation of Laysan Albatrosses by producing 37 additional young for the Kaua’i population and provided valuable insights into incubation, breeding performance and fostering methods.  Additional foster pairs should be sought, and sites on other islands should be identified where excess eggs from PMRF could be used to create new colonies by hand-rearing chicks.”

A Laysan Albatross receives its fostered egg, photograph by Lindsay Young

Reference:

Young, L.C., Vanderwerf, E.A., Granholm, C., Osterlund, H., Steutermann, K. & Savre, T. 2014.  Breeding performance of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis in a foster parent program.  Marine Ornithology 42: 99-103.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 October 2014

The USA gets its second predator-proof fence to protect albatrosses and shearwaters on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i

The Kaua‘i National Wildlife Refuge Complex on the USA’s Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i is comprised of the Hanalei, Hulē‘ia and Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuges.  This month as part of the USA’s National Wildlife Refuge Week the refuge complex is celebrating the completion of Kaua‘i’s first predator-proof fence on the slopes of Nīhoku (Crater Hill) within the complex following a ground-breaking ceremony in June.

Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project site

The fence with a mesh skirt and a rolled hood is the second of its type to be erected in Hawaii.  The first Hawaiian predator-proof fence successfully protects ACAP-listed Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus pacificus at Kaena Point on the island of Oahu (click here).  The 725-m fence on Kaua‘i has been designed to keep out introduced mammalian predators such as cats, dogs, mongoose, rats and mice from a 3.1-ha enclosure to protect Laysan Albatrosses which currently breed within it as well as other breeding birds and native plants.  The absence of predators (once removed) will make the site suitable for translocations of the Hawaiian-endemic and Endangered Newell’s Shearwater P. newelli.

The Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985; in 1988 it was expanded to include Nihoku and Mōkōlea Point.

Partners for the Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project include the American Bird Conservancy, the Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (a Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife/Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit project), Pacific Rim Conservation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Read more about the Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project and the positive outcome of its environmental assessment.  See also http://www.fws.gov/pacific/news/news.cfm?id=2144375292.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 October 2014

 

Population status and threats to Flesh-footed Shearwaters in South and Western Australia

Jenn Lavers (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia) has published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science on Flesh-footed Shearwaters Puffinus carneipes in South and Western Australia.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Seabirds are considered reliable indicators of the marine environment due to their reliance on ocean-based resources and position at the top of the marine foodweb.  The status of the world’s bird populations have deteriorated over the past 20 years with seabirds declining faster than any other bird group.  For some seabird species, a lack of data or synthesis of available data limits our ability to detect changes in population trends and gain insight into the condition of the surrounding marine environment.  The Flesh-footed Shearwater (FFSH; Puffinus carneipes) exemplifies this with demographic and count data either absent or outdated for most breeding islands.   Results of a survey of 20 FFSH breeding islands in South and Western Australia during 2011–2014, and a synthesis of all available data indicate the current global population is substantially smaller than previously thought, comprising no more than 74 000 breeding pairs. While much of the reduction in numbers is due to outdated burrow counts which are shown to be a poor measure of population size in this species, there is evidence of a decline in numbers on at least six islands that account for ~ 40% of the world’s population.  A review of novel and existing data on FFSH breeding habits (burrow occupancy and density), concurrent threats, and population size in South and Western Australia are presented here along with priorities for management of this declining marine predator.”

 

Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Barry Baker

With thanks to Barry Baker.

Reference:

Lavers, J.L. 2014.  Population status and threats to Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) in South and Western Australia.  ICES Journal of Marine Science doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsu164. (+ supplementary data).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 October 2014

International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas progresses seabird bycatch mitigation at a meeting in Portugal

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) held an intersessional meeting of its Sub-Committee on Ecosystems last month in Olhão, Portugal.  The Albatross and Petrel Agreement was represented by the Convenor of its Seabird Bycatch Working Group, Anton Wolfaardt.

At the meeting progress was achieved in discussing the review process for the commission’s seabird bycatch mitigation measure (Rec 11-09 Supplemental Recommendation by ICCAT on Reducing Incidental By-Catch of Seabirds in ICCAT Longline Fisheries) as described in its report.

The meeting considered a paper prepared and presented by an ACAP intersessional group identifying the elements that should be incorporated into a review of ICCAT’s current seabird conservation measures. These elements include the extent to which ICCAT’s seabird conservation and management measures reflect best practice for pelagic longline fisheries and has appropriate spatial, temporal and vessel application; the availability and quality of the data available for a review; the degree of implementation by vessels (compliance); and the analysis and monitoring of seabird by-catch levels over time, most likely including reported by-catch rates (birds per 1000 hooks) and the total number of birds killed per tuna RFMO per year.

It was agreed that because Rec 11-09 came fully into force in July 2013 it would be premature to conduct the full assessessment in 2015. However, the Sub-Committee highlighted the importance of initiating work in preparation for the review.  The key elements to be progressed in 2015 include:

• Review the extent to which the by-catch mitigation requirements in Rec 11-09 reflect current best practice for pelagic longline fisheries, and the spatial, temporal and vessel applicability of Rec 11-09;

• Request and review new data on seabird by-catch rates;

• Develop indicators for monitoring Rec 11-09 over time; and

• Update the EFFDIS [Fisheries effort and distribution] database.

The Sub-Committee recognized the trans-oceanic habitat of some seabird species. This necessitates the evaluation of mitigation effects across ocean basins and through collaboration with other tRFMOs, such as the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), which plans to hold a workshop in November 2014 to develop review methods.

Submitted Papers:

ACAP Intersessional Group (C. Small, A. Wolfaardt, G. Tuck, I. Debski, W. Papworth, Mi Ae Kim)  2014.  Preliminary identification of minimum elements to review the effectiveness of seabird bycatch mitigation regulations in tuna RFMOs.  SCRS/2014/121.

Reid, T.A., Wanless, R.M., Hilton, G.M., Phillips, R.A. & Ryan, P.G. 2014.  Foraging range and habitat associations of non-breeding Tristan albatrosses: overlap with fisheries and implications for conservation.  SCRS/2014/122. (Published in 2013 as Endangered Species Research 22: 39-49).

With thanks to Anton Wolfaardt.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 October 2014

Which ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels occur in the Mozambique Channel?

Sebastien Jaquemet (Université de La Réunion, Laboratoire ECOMAR, France) and colleagues report on seabirds recorded at sea in the Mozambique Channel in the western Indian Ocean in the journal Deep-Sea Research II.  ACAP-listed species seen were Black-browed Thalassarche melanophris and yellow-nosed T. chlororhynchos (=Atlantic T. carteri?) Albatrosses and White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The Mozambique Channel (western Indian Ocean) is a dynamic environment characterised by strong mesoscale features, which influence all biological components of the pelagic ecosystem.  We investigated the distribution, abundance and feeding behaviour of seabirds in the Mozambique Channel in relation to physical and biological environmental variables, with a specific interest in mesoscale features.  Seabird censuses were conducted in summer and winter during 7 cruises in the southern and northern Mozambique Channel. Tropical species accounted for 49% of the 37 species identified and 97% of the individuals, and species from the sub-Antarctic region constituted 30% of the identifications.  The typically tropical sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscata) was the dominant species during all cruises, and overall accounted for 74% of the species observations and 85% of counted birds.  Outputs of Generalised Linear Models at the scale of the Mozambique Channel suggested that higher densities of flying and feeding birds occurred in areas with lower sea surface temperatures and lower surface chlorophyll a concentrations.  Most of the flocks of feeding birds did not associate with surface schools of fish or marine mammals, but when they did, these flocks were larger, especially when associated with tuna.  While tropical species seemed to favour cyclonic eddies, frontal and divergence zones, non-tropical species were more frequently recorded over shelf waters.  Sooty terns foraged preferentially in cyclonic eddies where zooplankton, micronekton and tuna schools were abundant.  Among other major tropical species, frigatebirds (Fregata spp.) predominated in frontal zones between eddies, where tuna schools also frequently occurred and where geostrophic currents were the strongest.  Red-footed boobies (Sula sula) concentrated in divergence zones characterised by low sea level anomalies, low geostrophic currents, and high zooplankton biomass close to the surface.  Our results highlight the importance of mescoscale features in structuring the tropical seabird community in the Mozambique Channel, in addition to segregating tropical and non-tropical species.  The mechanisms underlying the segregation of tropical seabirds seem to partially differ from that of other tropical regions, and this may be a consequence of the strong local mesoscale activity, affecting prey size and availability schemes.  Beyond characterising the foraging habitats of the seabird community of the Mozambique Channel, this study highlights the importance of this region as a hot spot for seabirds; especially the southern part, where several endangered sub-Antarctic species over-winter.”

 

Black-browed Albatross, photograph by John Larsen

Reference:

Jaquemet, S., Ternon, J.F., Kaehler, S., Thiebot, J.B., Dyer, B., Bemanaja, E., Marteau, C. & Le Corre, M. 2014.  Contrasted structuring effects of mesoscale features on the seabird community in the Mozambique Channel.  Deep-Sea Research II 100: 200-211.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 October 2014