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 Communications Advisor if you wish to have your news featured.

The genetic structure of Southern Ocean seabirds gets a review

Kathrin Munro and Theresa Burg (Department of Biology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada) have published in the Australian journal Emu - Austral Ornithology on the genetic structure of Southern Ocean seabirds, including ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Genetic signatures of historical, behavioural and environmental processes are evident in contemporary seabird populations. Molecular markers have allowed us to determine historical patterns of gene flow, relationships among taxa, and contemporary dispersal barriers. The Southern Ocean contains a number of small, isolated islands that are home to four families of seabirds: albatrosses, petrels, penguins and skuas, which have been the focus of a number of population genetic studies. While capable of travelling large distances, many seabirds have restricted dispersal and exhibit high levels of population structure; typically in northern areas and areas with high endemism (e.g. New Zealand). We reviewed 29 studies of 25 Southern Ocean seabird species comparing biogeographic patterns, glacial history and barriers to gene flow, especially at-sea distribution and ocean currents. Despite diversity in behaviour and life history, our review demonstrates that population genetic structure of the seabirds corresponds to the same barriers. For penguins, currents are the major impediment to dispersal whereas at-sea distribution and island location influence population structure for many seabirds with genetically distinct populations on islands at the periphery of their range. As environmental conditions change, it will become more important to assess how seabirds respond and how these changes influence both dispersal and population structure. It is particularly important as a disproportionately high number of Southern Ocean seabirds are threatened or near threatened. Future studies need to focus on adaptive genetic markers, range-wide comprehensive sampling, influence of behaviour on genetic structure and lesser studied seabirds such as terns and cormorants.”

Wandering Albatross and chick, Marion Island, photograph by John Cooper

With thanks to Barry Baker.


Munro, K.J. & Burg, T.M. 2017.  A review of historical and contemporary processes affecting population genetic structure of Southern Ocean seabirds.  Emu - Austral Ornithology

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 February 2017

Workshop "Incidental Capture of Seabirds: Solutions in the Southern Cone" adopts the Valdivia Declaration in Chile

Based on the available evidence a rough estimate would suggest that up to 25 000 seabirds, mainly albatrosses, are killed in fisheries in the southern cone of South America each year. The species affected are predominantly from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* and South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* and Chilean islands off the southern tip of South America.

The fisheries concerned are trawl fisheries that target different species of hake along the Patagonian Shelf, around Cape Horn and up into the Humboldt Current.  These Large Marine Ecosystems are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world and represent critically important foraging grounds for many species of seabird.  The resulting overlap in fishery effort and seabird abundance is what leads to the unfortunate interactions, where seabirds are struck by trawl cables or drowned in fishing nets.

In both Argentina and Chile, national fishery research institutes (Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo Pesquero (INIDEP) in Argentina and Instituto de Fomento Pesquero (IFOP) in Chile) employ fishery observers to monitor fish catch and operations. As part of their daily duties, fishery observers are now recording seabird mortality and using that information to report to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). Through this work we are able to gain a better understanding of the levels of seabird bycatch in the region, and the cumulative impact of multiple fisheries on endangered seabird populations.

The BirdLife Albatross Task Force (ATF) in Argentina and Chile, has been working in parallel to identify the characteristics of seabird bycatch in these fisheries and to develop and trial solutions - seabird bycatch mitigation measures - that can reduce the interactions to negligible levels. Incredibly, the trials have shown that seabird bycatch can be reduced by >85% in these fisheries when mitigation measures are used.

The next steps toward reducing the unsustainable levels of bycatch across the southern cone will need a process of the governments passing fishery regulations that require all vessels to implement mitigation measures, and for the national fishery observers to record and report on compliance levels. To encourage swift progress and provide support, BirdLife International hosted a workshop in Valdivia, Chile in January this year entitled “Incidental Capture of Seabirds: Solutions in the Southern Cone”.

In the workshop staff from the ATF and BirdLife International, representatives from the two national fishery research institutes and government worked with the ACAP Executive Secretary, Marco Favero to collaborate on planning a path toward more sustainable fisheries, through the introduction of seabird bycatch mitigation measures in the fisheries and seabird monitoring programmes to record compliance with these measures.

The participants of the workshop: “Incidental Capture of Seabirds: Solutions in the Southern Cone"

One message from the workshop stood out: individual efforts often make a crucial difference in the fight to save endangered species, and the workshop attendees signed a declaration of intentions – The Valdivia Declaration – to indicate their joint dedication toward driving seabird conservation efforts over the next two years. The balance between threatened seabird populations recovering or declining further will rest with many of the people attending the workshop, marking a hugely important occasion and providing great hope for albatrosses.

Oli Yates, Head, Albatross Task Force, BirdLife International, 20 February 2017

*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.

Declaration of Valdivia

Working towards the reduction of seabird bycatch in Southern Cone fisheries

Workshop "Incidental Capture of Seabirds: Solutions in the Southern Cone"

Valdivia, Chile - 11 to 13 January 2017

Recognising that:

Seabirds, and albatrosses in particular, are threatened with extinction, in large part due to interactions with fisheries;

There are simple, economical and effective solutions that, when properly implemented, can mitigate the negative effects of these interactions;

Understanding that:

States are responsible for the administration, sustainable use of natural resources and conservation of ecosystems;

Fisheries research institutes have a fundamental and mandatory role in data collection and generation of information on fishing activity including effects on the ecosystem, which contribute to decision making;

The main objective of BirdLife International's Marine Programme is to improve the conservation status of seabirds, through a collaborative approach with national and international organisations;

Highlighting that:

Frequently, efforts by individuals and teams within different government agencies, national research institutes and NGOs are often key drivers of sustainable change;

In light of the reasons stated, the participants of the Workshop "Seabird Bycatch: Solutions in the Southern Cone" declare our willingness to collaborate in conducting actions to improve the conservation status of seabirds, including:

(1) Improve the standardised collection of seabird interactions and mortality data that allow spatially and temporally stratified analyses;
(2) Promote the integration of information between the different organisations at a national and international level;
(3) Develop, propose and implement conservation measures to mitigate the incidental mortality of seabirds in southern cone fisheries;
(4) Promote the revision and implementation of National Plans of Action to reduce the interactions between seabirds and fisheries;

Signed [in Spanish] in Valdivia on 13 January 2017

NOTE:  ACAP’s Executive Secretary, Marco Favero, who attended the workshop, writes to ALN that the ACAP Secretariat welcomes the Valdivia Declaration and offers secretarial assistance in implementing its actions.

The last straw? Two Southern Ocean albatrosses die after ingesting balloons in Australia

ACAP Latest News has previously reported more than once on albatrosses and petrels becoming entangled with or ingesting latex balloons.  Records include entanglements and/or ingestions for the Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes and Arctic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis in the Northern Hemisphere and Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris, Northern Macronectes halli and Southern M. giganteus Giant Petrels, Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris and possibly Antarctic Petrel Thalassoica antarctica (one of the most southerly breeding seabirds) in the Southern Hemisphere (click here).

Two more procellariiform species, both ACAP-listed, can now be added to the above list.

Beach-washed carcasses of a Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma (01 July 2015) and a Light-mantled Albatross Phoebetria fusca (09 October 2015) collected from Fraser Island, south-east Queensland, Australia both yielded pieces of balloons on necropsy by University of Tasmania PhD student, Lauren Roman.

David Stewart reports to ACAP Latest News that the Light-mantled Albatross more than likely died from a blocked gastro-intestinal tract (GIT).

The knot from a balloon blocks the gastro-intestinal tract of a Light-mantled Albatross

 The ballon knot after removal

  For the other bird David writes to ALN:

“The Grey-headed Albatross [is] more difficult to assess. There was both pieces of plastic and material from two different balloons (two different shades of red), however it was unknown if there was sufficient foreign material in the GIT to cause problems.  The general condition of the albatross was poor, with no body fat and wasted muscles, however many seabirds that have been washed up on the beach are in a similar condition.”

The Grey-headed Albatross also included a plastic straw, the first such record of ingestion by an albatross known to ALN, at least from the Southern Hemisphere.

Pieces of a red balloon within a Grey-headed Albatross stomach

Balloon fragments and a plastic straw from the Grey-headed Albatross proventriculus

The Grey-headed Albatross balloon unwrapped

Photos courtesy of Fregetta Photography  

 In a number of countries, including in Australia, environmental groups are campaigning for halts, or at least controls, of the releases of helium-filled balloons, especially en masse when linked to celebrations and sports events.  You can follow some of these bodies on Facebook:

Some environmental NGOs are also working against single-use plastic straws.

Read more on the above two incidents here.

With thanks to David Stewart.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 February 2017

Obituary: Norbert Klages, seabird diet specialist, 1952-2017

Norbert Theodor Wilhelm Klages (3 July 1952 to 30 January 2017) was a seabird diet specialist in the mode of the late Mike Imber of New Zealand.  Working with colleagues in South Africa and then in Australia he received (or collected his own) stomach contents of seabirds for analysis, concentrating on albatrosses, petrels and penguins.  These samples were sorted and identified the “old fashioned” way by painstakingly identifying and measuring hard parts such as squid beaks and fish otoliths.

Norbert and Sabina Klages

Before Norbert arrived in South Africa from Germany with a newly-awarded PhD from Kiel University in 1983, we marine ornithologists in the country knew very little about what the seabirds we studied ate.  Within a decade, due to Norbert’s expertise while working at the Port Elizabeth Museum as part of the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) in identifying often well-digested samples, we had a good knowledge of the breeding diets of nearly all the seabirds that are found on sub-Antarctic Marion Island.  We could then go on to compare and contrast the diets of sympatric and closely related species pairs, finding out, for example, that Light-mantled Albatrosses Phoebetria palpebrata at Marion could feed on Antarctic Krill Euphausia superba, which only occurs south of the island, while the more northerly foraging Sooty Albatross P. fusca did not.  Much of his diet work critically added to several higher degrees awarded to colleagues in South Africa.

Looking at my own publication list, I find I co-authored 12 papers and co-edited one proceedings with Norbert between 1984 and 2009.  Of these publications seven dealt with the diets of procellariiforms, including ACAP-listed species, at Marion and Gough Islands as listed below.  A good memory of field work conducted in the 1980s with Norbert (although not so much at the time) was attempting to obtain stomach samples by upending Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses Diomedea dabbenena returning to feed their chicks in Gonydale on Gough.  Unfortunately it rained heavily the night before, out shared tent leaked badly and we retreated off the mountain with empty buckets to the island’s meteorological station at sea level to dry out.  A quarter of a century later the Tristan Albatross still lacks a publication on its breeding diet.

Most recently, Norbert Klages worked as an Environmental Scientist and a Senior Associate with Gibb (Pty) Ltd, a multi-disciplinary engineering consulting firm, on a wide range of environmental management issues centred in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province where he lived.

Norbert passed away suddenly in their tent while he and his wife were on a cycling weekend at the end of last month. A celebration of his life is being held today in Port Elizabeth with donations in aid of rehabilitating African Penguins Spheniscus demersus.  ACAP's (and my own) sympathies are extended to Norbert's wife, Sabina and to his colleagues and friends around the World.

Hamba kahle, Norbert. 

Selected publications

Cooper, J., Fourie, A. & Klages, N.T.W. 1992. The diet of the Whitechinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis at sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Marine Ornithology 20: 17-24.

Cooper, J., Henley, S.R. & Klages, N.T.W. 1992. The diet of the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans at Subantarctic Marion Island. Polar Biology 12: 477-484.

Cooper, J. & Klages, N.T.W. 1995. The diets and dietary segregation of sooty albatrosses (Phoebetria spp.) at subantarctic Marion Island. Antarctic Science 7: 15-23.

Cooper, J. & Klages, N.T.W. 2009.  The winter diet of the Great-winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera at sub-Antarctic Marion Island in 1991.  Marine Ornithology 37: 261-263.

Klages, N.T.W. & Cooper, J. 1992. Bill morphology and diet of a filter-feeding seabird: the Broad-billed Prion Pachyptila vittata at South Atlantic Gough Island. Journal of Zoology, London 227: 385-396.

Klages, N.T.W. & Cooper, J. 1997.  Diet of the Atlantic Petrel Pterodroma incerta during breeding at South Atlantic Gough Island.  Marine Ornithology 25 13-16.

Klages, N.T.W., Nel, D.C. & Cooper, J. 1995. Stomach contents of a Greybacked Storm Petrel Garrodia nereis from sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Marine Ornithology 23: 163-164.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 February 2017

Suva workshop: ACAP helps raise awareness on bycatch issues in Chinese longline fleets

ACAP’s Executive Secretary Marco Favero attended an Effective Seabird Conservation in Tuna Fisheries Workshop organized by Common Oceans (the Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction Tuna Program) in Suva, Fiji in the afternoon of 10 December last year.

Attendees gather at a Common Ocean's Chinese National Awareness Workshop in Suva, Fiji in December 2016 

A report of the meeting abbreviated from Common Oceans follows:

“Bycatch mitigation techniques will only be effective if fishermen use them. This simple message, often forgotten in more academic discussions, was the impetus behind a recent half-day workshop held with the Chinese tuna longline fleet operating out of Fiji.  Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Program partners BirdLife International (BLI), the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) capitalized on an invitation from the China Overseas Fisheries Association and Shanghai Ocean University to meet face-to-face with those on the frontlines of bycatch mitigation.  The workshop was attended by Chinese vessel captains, Fijian government officials, other industry representatives and researchers allowing for opinions and ideas from many different viewpoints to be discussed and shared.”

At the workshop ACAP concentrated on providing information in its presentation on seabird bycatch and bycatch mitigation while Karen Baird (BirdLife International) provided information on seabird life history. Bronwyn Maree (Seabird Bycatch Coordinator, Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Program), Janne Fogelgren (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; FAO) and Shelley Clark (Technical Coordinator - Sharks and Bycatch , Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Program) also gave presentations.

Marco makes his presentation entitled "Seabird bycatch and methods to mitigate incidental mortality in fisheries"

Marco Favero (ACAP) and Brownwyn Maree (Common Oceans)

The workshop provided an introduction to seabird biology and seabird bycatch mitigation measures currently adopted by the tuna Regional Fishery Management Organizations (tRFMOs) and supported as best practice by ACAP.  A brief demonstration of how to use a bird-scaring line was given.

“Information on mitigation for sharks, turtles and marine mammals was supplemented by safe release videos, and quizzes on what constitutes shark finning and when to use certain mitigation measures.  Many skippers noted that they used bird-scaring lines during fishing operations but that night setting was not commonly implemented by this fleet as a seabird bycatch mitigation measure. Captains expressed that they would like to have more workshops and be provided with more detailed and practical (real-life) examples of how to prevent bycatch.  Recommendations by participants also included testing of the various best practice bycatch mitigation measures on tuna longline vessels in China."

Read more on the workshop here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 February 2017

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

About ACAP

ACAP Secretariat

119 Macquarie St
Hobart TAS 7000

Tel: +61 3 6165 6674