Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Plans to control Norfolk Island’s rats and cats set to help both parrots and shearwaters

The Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner has made AUD 300 000 available to expand rodent control (which commenced in 1992) in and outside of Norfolk Island National Park on Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean (click here).  This action is set to help protect the endemic Norfolk Island Green Parrot Cyanoramphus cookii which has declined in numbers to no more than a couple of hundred individuals, now largely restricted to the island’s national park and adjacent forested areas and orchards (click here).  Predation by feral Domestic Cats Felis catus and Black Rattus rattus and Polynesian R. exulans Rats are considered causative factors in the decline.  House Mice Mus musculus are also present.

The “funding will enhance the rat baiting program across Norfolk Island National Park and expand it beyond the park’s borders.  This will complement work to tackle feral cats [trapping of cats started in1989 within the park] and substantially reduce direct and indirect impacts of rats on native species and their habitats. The project will:

  • increase the number of rodent bait stations across Norfolk Island National Park, including filling gaps in the park’s existing rat baiting network
  • expand the existing network of bait stations to incorporate part of the bordering forestry reserve
  • establish a program of ongoing servicing and monitoring to cover the expanded bait station network.”

The enhanced control programme is expected to help the island’s ground-nesting seabirds, including the Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus with “several hundred thousand” reported in 1981 to be present.  However, the island’s population is thought to have declined significantly since the 1980s due to attacks by feral cats.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater, photograph by Alan Burger

Little Shearwaters P. assimilis (of the nominate race) were present at Anson Point on Norfolk Island in the 1970s but breeding is now confined to the much smaller and predator-free Phillip and Nepean Islands in the Norfolk Island group (where Wedge-tailed Shearwaters also breed).  According to the latest edition of the Australian Action Plan for Birds their disappearance from the main island is thought due to depredation by the island’s rats.  Flesh-footed Shearwaters P. carnepeis are also thought to breed on Phillip Island in small numbers.  In addition, three species of Pterodroma petrels breed on Phillip Island.

Norfolk Island (35 km2) is an external territory of the Commonwealth of Australia.  It has a human population of 2300.  The 6.5-km²forested Norfolk Island National Park centred on Mount Pitt was declared in 1985; it includes Phillip Island (added in 1996).

With thanks to Barry Baker for information.

Selected Literature:

Director of National Parks 2008.  Norfolk Island National Park and Norfolk Island Botanic Garden Management Plan 2008-2018.  Canberra: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.  96 pp.

Director of National Parks. 2010.  Norfolk Island Region Threatened Species Recovery Plan. Canberra: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.  183 pp.

Garnett, S.T., Szabo, J.K. & Dutson, G. 2011.  The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010.  Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.  456 pp.

Priddel, D., Carlile, N., Evans, O., Evans, B. & McCoy, H. 2010.  A review of the seabirds of Phillip Island in the Norfolk Island Group.  Notornis 57: 113-127.

Tarburton, M.K. 1981.  Seabirds nesting on Norfolk Island.  Notornis 28: 209-211.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 December 2014

Call for Application: ACAP Executive Secretary, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Applications are invited for the post of Executive Secretary in the Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).  The ACAP Secretariat is an Intergovernmental Organisation that supports the work of the Agreement in seeking to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for albatrosses and petrels.  The Secretariat’s Headquarters are located in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

The Executive Secretary will be appointed in accordance with the terms and conditions determined by the Agreement’s staff regulations.  Appointment will be for a term of four years, subject to a satisfactory performance evaluation at the end of the first year of employment.  The successful applicant shall be eligible for reappointment for one additional term, with the total length of employment not exceeding eight years.  A remuneration package consists of a salary in a range that, at present, commences at AU$ 140 282.  This will be subject to review in 2015.  Allowances including superannuation will be provided to the successful applicant.

Applications are invited from persons meeting the following criteria:

Essential criteria

1. Must be a national of an ACAP Party.

2. Experience or detailed knowledge of the operations of international intergovernmental organizations.

3. Representational and promotional skills.

4. Fluency in one of the ACAP official languages (English, French or Spanish).

5. Demonstration of an appropriate level of managerial experience and proven competence, including: (a) the preparation of financial budgets and the management of expenditures, and (b) the organisation of meetings and provision of Secretariat support for high level committees.

Desirable criteria

6. Familiarity with the conservation of albatrosses and petrels.

7. Relevant experience and qualifications.

8. Proficiency in the ACAP languages.

Applications addressing the above selection criteria should be emailed to the Executive Secretary, Warren Papworth (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) by close of business 31 December 2014.  Applicants are requested to complete the personal information form available on the ACAP home page and to provide a statement (maximum 1500 words) in support of their application addressing the above selection criteria.

All applications will be screened by an ACAP panel and those successful at the initial screening will be invited to complete a full application (for submission by 9 March 2015).  These will be reviewed and follow-up interviews by telephone may occur.  A final shortlist of two candidates will be invited to attend a face-to-face interview in Santa Cruz, Spain on 3 May 2015.

ACAP Secretariat, 15 December 2014

ACAP Breeding Site No. 75. North-east Kauai, where Laysan Albatrosses breed on private lands - and a webcam has made one pair and its chick famous with two million hits

Kauai, one of the USA’s inhabited Hawaiian Islands in the North Pacific, supports several populations of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis.  Although small, these populations are considered significant because their height puts them above predicted sea-level rises which are thought will seriously impact the much larger Laysan Albatrosses populations on the low-lying North Western Hawaiian islands.  The Kauai albatrosses differ in their levels of protection and management, so are here treated as four separate populations.

The North-east Kauai and Princeville populations are marked in green

Around 130 pairs breed within the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, although they are not readily visible to the public.  Secure breeding opportunity within this refuge has recently been expanded by the building of a predator-proof fence.

Farther west on the island approximately 40 pairs breed within the community of Princeville where they are studied and protected by concerned inhabitants (click here)

Over 80 pairs attempt to breed annually on the south-west shore of Kauai within the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (click here).  Because these birds are a collision hazard to aircraft their eggs are removed each year; some of which have been given to foster parents elsewhere on the island as a conservation measure (click here).

In addition to these three separate populations, Laysan Albatrosses breed on private lands along the north-east coast of Kauai, in a 16-km stretch from Princeville to Anahola, east of Kilauea Point.

Four well-fenced spots occur in this coastal region where the birds are well protected but in unfenced sections breeding Laysans are at risk to domestic dogs Canis familiaris that are allowed to roam loose, with 25 adult birds known to have been killed by dogs in the 2012/13 breeding season.  Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources staff then went door-to-door in the neighbourhood and the killings stopped.  Live traps have been used on unfenced properties to catch the most problematic dogs.  Feral cats Felis catus are also deemed to be a problem and control activities take place by volunteers of the Kaua‘i Albatross Network.

Laysan Albatrosses of the north-east shore of Kauai

The combined total of the Princeville to Anahola private properties saw 59 chicks fledge from 87 eggs laid (of which 68 hatched) in the 2013/2014 breeding season.  Some 10-25% of the breeding birds are female-female pairs which lay double clutches (click here), giving opportunities for cross-fostering with eggs from Barking Sands, as has happened recently in the privately-owned Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens.  Non-breeding birds caught and banded at Barking Sands have also been released in the botanical gardens for some years, some of which have commenced to breed.  In the past translocated birds were released within the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge but this apparently no longer occurs.

An incubating Laysan Albatross

A live-streaming remote camera operated by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology set up on a secure property in north-east Kauai went live on 27 January this year.  Over the next five months until the chick (named "Kaloakulua", which refers to a phase of the moon when it hatched) successfully fledged in late June the “TrossCam” received nearly two million hits from 195 countries, with regular write-ups being posted.  One notable event was when a stray dog showed up a few metres from the chick, fortunately without harming it (click here).  The dog was later live-trapped and adopted.

The albatross camera along with the chick it watched

All photographs by Hob Osterlund

It is intended to use the camera at a nearby nest site in the 2014/15 season now that egg-laying has commenced.

Global Positioning System (GPS) tags were placed on 12 adult birds in the Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens this year as part of a collaborative study of the at-sea movements of several Hawaiian seabird species by Pacific Rim Conservation, Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center (WERC-USGS).  The birds have been tracked at sea for up to 79 days (click here).  In addition, Kaloakulua received an archival geolocator tag before fledging in the hope it could be recovered for downloading when it returns to land after its first few years at sea as a juvenile.

With thanks to Lindsay Young, ACAP North Pacific News Correspondent, for information.

Selected Literature:

Arata, J.A., Sievert, P.R. & Naughton, M.B. 2009.  Status Assessment of Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, North Pacific Ocean, 1923-2000.  U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5131.  Reston: U.S. Geological Survey.

Duffy, D.C. 2010.  Changing seabird management in Hawai'i: from exploitation through management to restoration.  Waterbirds 33: 193-207.

Naughton, M.B., Romano, M.D. & Zimmerman, T.S. 2007.  A Conservation Action Plan for Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) and Laysan Albatross (P. immutabilis).  Version 1.0.

Pyle, R.L. & Pyle, P. 2009.  The Birds of the Hawaiian Islands: Occurrence, History, Distribution, and Status.  Honolulu: B.P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu.

Vanderwerf, E.A. 2012.  Albatrosses.  In:  Hawaiian Bird Conservation Action Plan.  Honolulu: Pacific Rim Conservation.  11 pp.

Waid, R. 2005.  The Majestic Albatross. Images of Kauai's Beloved Seabirds.  Honolulu: Mutual Publishing.  51 pp.

Young, L.C. & VanderWerf, E.A. 2014.  Adaptive value of same-sex pairing in Laysan albatross.   Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences  doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2473.

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 & Hob Osterlund, Kauai Albatross Network, 14 December 2014

Black and white warning panels fixed to gill nets are expected to reduce seabird mortality: a sensory ecology review

Graham Martin (School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, UK) and Rory Crawford (RSPB) have published an open-access review in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation on reducing bycatch of seabirds (including procellariiform species such as shearwaters) and other marine taxa in gill nets.  “[F]or gillnet bycatch to be reduced, the actual nets need to be made more visible to non-target vertebrates.”

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Sensory capacities and perceptual challenges faced by gillnet bycatch taxa result from fundamental physiological limits on vision and constraints arising within underwater environments.  To reduce bycatch in birds, sea turtles, pinnipeds and blue-water fishes, individuals must be alerted to the presence of nets using visual cues.  Cetaceans will benefit but they also require warning with cues detected through echolocation.  Characteristics of a visual warning stimulus must accommodate the restricted visual capacities of bycatch species and the need to maintain vision in a dark adapted state when foraging.  These requirements can be provided by a single type of visual warning stimulus: panels containing a pattern of low spatial frequency and high internal contrast.  These are likely to be detectable across a range of underwater light environments by all bycatch prone taxa, but are unlikely to reduce the catch of target fish species.  Such panels should also be readily detectable by cetaceans using echolocation.  Use of sound signals to warn about the presence of gillnets is not recommended because of the poor sound localisation abilities of bycatch taxa, cetaceans excepted.  These warning panels should be effective as a mitigation measure for all bycatch species, relatively easy to deploy and of low cost.”

Shearwaters: at risk to drowning in gill nets, Photograph by Vero Cortes

Reference: 

Martin, G.R. & Crawford, R, 2015.  Reducing bycatch in gillnets: A sensory ecology perspective.  Global Ecology and Conservation 3: 28-50.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 December 2014

Eight very large Marine Protected Areas totalling over three and a third million square kilometres surround breeding sites of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels

A number of Marine Protected Areas offers at-sea protection to ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels (click here).  All these MPAs or equivalents include within their boundaries islands or island groups which are breeding sites for one or more of the 30 ACAP-listed species. Several of them are situated in the North Pacific and Southern Oceans.

In recent years very large MPAs that are more than or approach 100 000 km² in size have been declared or expanded.  Eight of them that surround island groups supporting ACAP-listed species total over 3.34 million square kilometres.

In order of the year of their original designation these eight very large MPAs are:

Galapagos Marine Reserve, Ecuador, 1998, 133 000 km²

Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and Marine Park, Australia, 1999, 162 000 km²

Heard and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve, Australia, 2002 & 2014, 71 200 km²

Papāhanaumokuākea Marine National Monument, USA, 2006, 362 074 km²

Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, USA, 2009 & 2014, 1 270 000 km²

South Orkney Islands Southern Shelf MPA, 2009, CCAMLR, 94 000 km²

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur)* MPA, disputed, 2010, 1 070 000 km²

Prince Edward Islands MPA, South Africa, 013, 180 000 km²

Overall, MPAs cover around one percent of the World’s oceans and seas.

John Cooper ACAP Information Officer,12 November 2014

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.