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.

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Breeding site of the Critically Endangered Mascarene Petrel found on the island of Reunion

MascarenePetrel

The LIFE + Pétrels project has reported the discovery in November last year of the first known breeding colony of one of the World’s rarest seabirds, the Critically Endangered Mascarene Petrel Psuedobulweria aterrima on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

Mascarene Petrel

Several innovative tools, including infrared binoculars were used to track petrels in flight andlocate landing birds leading to the discovery of an active breeding colony.  The colony was found after abseiling down sheer cliffs within the Saint-Joseph Municipality, in the south of the island (click here).

"The LIFE + Petrels program (2014-2020) aims to halt the decline of endemic petrels in Reunion.  These birds are emblematic of Reunion Island’s exceptional biodiversity.  The project brings together the island’s various stakeholders and actors to save the Petrel, which is currently on the brink of extinction and threatened by introduced predators and light pollution.”  Mascarene Petrels have been regularly found attracted by lights on the island.  A rescue campaign is conducted each year.

Modelling work on Reunion Island showed only eradication of both cats and rats … will effectively save seabird species such as these.  Predator eradication is not currently possible on Reunion Island so for now the LIFE+Petrels team will have to implement other conservation strategies such as predator-proof fencing and ongoing control” (click here).

With thanks to Patrick Pinet, Parc national de La Réunion.

Reference:

Pinet, P., Julie Tourmetz, J., Riethmuller, M., Salamolard, M., Le Corre, M. & Couzi, F.-X. 2016.  Dark side of the moon … and petrels.  6th International Albatross and Petrel Conference, Barcelona, September 2016 Conference Program and Abstracts.  p. 131

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 January 2017

Macquarie’s Black-browed Albatrosses get tracked at sea

This austral summer researchers have added GPS loggers to five globally Near Threatened Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris on Australia’s Macquarie Island.  The study is being led by marine ornithologist Rachael Alderman of the Tasmanian Department Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment (DPIPWE) Marine Conservation Branch.

“In the last month field biologists, Kim Kliska and Penny Pascoe, have successfully taped the miniature devices to the feathers on the back of albatross and the data is [sic] then beamed back while they forage.”

Four of the five loggers have been retrieved so far from the only 50 pairs of Black-browed Albatrosses that breed on Macquarie.  Read more here.

 Black Browed Albatross by Aleks Terauds

Black-browed Albatross, photograph by Aleks Terauds

 “All the data collected is [sic] fed into the International Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels to inform conservation measures such as reducing seabird by-catch in fisheries.  Australian sub-Antarctic fisheries are closed during summer, to avoid albatross when they are foraging close to shore to feed their chicks.  The black browed albatross population on Macquarie Island has benefited from the eradication of rabbits, with regrowth of vegetation providing critical nesting habitat and better protection from extreme weather and predators.”

Over winter, satellite tags were used to track ACAP-listed Grey Petrels Procellaria cinerea breeding on Macquarie (click here). 

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 January 2017

ACAP and the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles sign a Memorandum of Understanding

THE ACAP Secretariat has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC).

The objective of the IAC is “to promote the protection, conservation and recovery of sea turtle populations and the habitats on which they depend, based on the best available scientific evidence, taking into account the environmental, socio-economic and cultural characteristics of the Parties.”  The turtle convention entered into force in May 2001 and currently has a total of 15 Western Hemisphere Parties.

Sea turtles face threats similar to those faced by albatrosses and petrels, especially from incidental bycatch in longline fisheries, leading to the recognition that the objectives of IAC and ACAP can be facilitated by cooperation via a MoU.

The MoU states that:

“The Participants may consult, cooperate and collaborate with each other on areas of common interest that are directly or indirectly relevant to the conservation, including the protection and recovery of populations of albatrosses and petrels, and sea turtles including, among other things:

(a) exchange of scientific knowledge regarding techniques to mitigate interactions of albatrosses and petrels, and sea turtles with fishing operations to reduce the incidental mortality resulting from such interactions;

(b) exchange of information regarding management approaches relevant to the conservation of albatrosses and petrels, and sea turtles; and

(c) reciprocal participation with observer status at relevant meetings of IAC and ACAP.”

The new MoU was signed ‘remotely’ on 19 December last year with texts in both English and Spanish, both authentic, so there is no photographic record of a ceremony to show.

The MoU with the IAC joins a total of nine other MoUs and equivalent documents ACAP has signed since 2007 with other organizations, including with all five Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (tRFMOs) responsible for the management of high-seas tuna stocks (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 January 2017

UPDATED: Third year of translocating Laysan Albatrosses to the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge gets underway

In the last two years fertile eggs of the Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis from the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands on the Hawaiian island of Kauai have been collected and following artificial incubation and fostering, the ensuing chicks have been hand-reared until fledging at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on the nearby island of Oahu.

Laysan Albatross chicks being hand reared under shade at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, photograph by Lindsay Young 

This project is being led by the NGO Pacific Rim Conservation with the twin aims of establishing a new breeding colony that will not be at risk to sea-level rise, as are the species’ major breeding sites on the low-lying North Western Pacific Islands (click here) and reducing the risks of bird strikes at the missile facility (removing eggs should lead to lowered recruitment and eventually to colony shrinkage).

The third year of the translocation project is now underway.    A total of 61 eggs was collected from the missile range, of which 47 were deemed to be fertile after candling on site by Pacific Rim Conservation.  Fourteen of these eggs were fostered out to Laysan Albatrosses on Kauai, including female-female pairs with infertile eggs (click here).

Most of the remaining 33 eggs are in foster care at Oahu’s Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, with a few in an artificial incubator until foster nests are found. The chicks will be fed by hand for five months on a purée of fish, squid, Pedialyte (an oral rehydrant) and vitamins (click here).

In the first year of the project the 10 translocated Laysan eggs that hatched in an artificial incubator all successfully fledged; in the second year 19 of the 20 chicks that hatched fledged.

Hand feeding a Laysan Albatross, photograph courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service 

In addition, 15 Black-footed Albatross P. nigripes chicks will be transferred from Midway Atoll to the James Campbell NWR in the middle of next month and hand-reared along with their cousins (click here), with the aim of creating a two-species colony.

Meanwhile over in New Zealand plans are breeding made to transfer another batch of Chatham Albatross Thalassarche eremita chicks from their sole breeding locality on the Pyramid to Point Gap in the Chatham Islands in an endeavour to establish a second colony.  This will be the fourth year of the translocation project; one more year is planned (click here).

A translocated Chatham Albatross chick gets hand fed at Point Gap, photographs courtesy of the Chatham Island Taiko Trust

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 January 2017, updated 27 January 2017

Mice attacks on Midway albatrosses are spreading but plans are afoot to eradicate them

ACAP Latest News has previously reported that introduced House Mice Mus musculus on Sand Island, part of the USA’s Midway Atoll in the North Pacific, had taken to attacking Laysan Phoebastria immutabilis and Black-footed P. nigripes Albatrosses in the 2015/16 breeding season, resulting in a number of mortalities (click here).

Mouse attacks on Midway albatrosses during the 2015/16 breeding season, photographs by US Fish and Wildlife Service and Robert Taylor

News is now in for the latest (2016/17) breeding season that mice attacks on albatrosses are continuing and are spreading over more of the island - as extracts below taken from a blog show.

Areas where albatrosses have been attacked by mice on Sand Island, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge as of 15 January 2017.  Areas with green borders indicate areas where only abandoned nests were found but no bitten or dead birds.  Red triangles represent individual dead or bitten birds 

“On December 4, while out checking birds in areas where mice had attacked the previous year, [U.S.] Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Meg Duhr-Schultz found several bitten birds, removing any possibility that the events of 2015/2016 were some kind of El Niño-driven anomaly. Staff and volunteers were deployed over the next few days to survey other parts of the island and more attacks were discovered. In less than a week the area impacted by mouse attacks had exceeded the total area affected during all of the previous year. And the fact that the mouse attacks were noticed several weeks earlier was of real concern.  Again, the Fish and Wildlife Service had to quickly figure out what to do and the decision was made to take steps to reduce the mice populations in the affected areas.  So far the actions that the Fish and Wildlife have taken seem to be having a positive effect. The abundance of mice in the impacted area dropped sharply in areas where rodenticide was applied [by hand].”

“Over 1200 bitten birds have been discovered, 211 of which have died.  Nearly one thousand abandoned nests have been documented. Mice may also be having impacts on other seabirds here but it would be more difficult to detect, especially for the burrow-nesting species.”

“As the only atoll within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument that still harbors lingering populations of invasive rodents, there have been plans to eradicate mice from Midway Atoll for some time.  The discovery that mice are harming the albatrosses should only strengthen the case for their removal and expedite the [eradication] project’s implementation.  First steps were, in fact, taken just last November when a team of biologists and invasive species experts from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the non-profit organization Island Conservation visited Midway [to] begin a study of the project’s feasibility.”

A dead Laysan Albatross found during the attacks of 2016/2017 next to an abandoned nest; photograph by Robert Taylor

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 January 2016

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

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Hobart TAS 7000
Australia

Tel: +61 3 6165 6674