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.

Volunteer, this time with albatrosses, on Midway Atoll in the North-western Hawaiian Islands

The US Fish and Wildlife Service seeks volunteers for a six-month period from late March to September 2017 in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

Volunteer work emphasizes habitat restoration including native plant propagation and planting, seed collection and processing, removal of invasive plants both by hand and through chemical application of herbicide, and monitoring plant populations.  Other work includes seabird and Laysan Duck Anas laysanensis monitoring, marine debris removal, data entry and equipment maintenance, along with other tasks depending on current projects and refuge needs.  Volunteers must be physically fit and be willing to handle albatrosses and other seabirds for banding and monitoring studies.

 

Preference will be given to those with an educational or professional background in biology, conservation science or botany.  Habitat restoration, plant propagation, weed control, remote field and/or bird-handling experience is preferred.

Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis breeding to the horizon on Sand Island, Midway Atoll

Applications are due by 31 December 2016 with selections to be made by the end of January 2017.  Read more here, including how to apply.

Read regular news about the island’s albatrosses and petrels (and other wildlife) in the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge’s bi-annual on-line newsletter Gooney Gazette.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 November 2016

Volunteer with Manx Shearwaters (and other seabirds) on the United Kingdom’s Skomer Island

Skomer Island is located off the coast of the Pembrokeshire Peninsula, Wales, and is one of the United Kingdom’s most important seabird colonies.  The island supports roughly 50% of the World’s Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus population (around 316 000 pairs) along with internationally important numbers of Atltantic Puffins, Common Guillemots, Razorbills and gulls.  The island is open for up to 250 visitors a day, with up to 16 staying overnight.

Manx Shearwater, photograph by Nathan Fletcher

An opportunity exists for a Seabird Monitoring Volunteer on Skomer for the period 25 May until 30 June 2017 (click here).

This volunteering position will be to help out with our busiest period of the year, which we start by counting gull nests and then continue on to counting every nesting seabird on the island from land and boat, twice.  There will also be a large proportion of time spent recording responses from Shearwater census plot burrows across the island.

Separately, three Long Term Volunteer positions are available, two of which run from 1 April to 15 July 2017 and the third from 15 July to 30 September 2017.

 “The Long Term Volunteers will become an integral part of the island team and will be involved in all aspects of the running of the National Nature Reserve.  They will be welcoming guests and giving welcome talks, conducting various species surveys (including seabird monitoring and seal monitoring in the appropriate seasons), helping to keep the visitor accommodation clean, carrying out general maintenance all over the island and undertaking their own research project whilst on the island.”

Find the Long Term Volunteer advert here.

Note that the application forms for the Seabird Monitoring position and Long Term Volunteer positions are different.  The closing date for applications is 16 January 2017, with shortlisted candidates to be interviewed in the week commencing 30 January.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 November 2016

A large Marine Protected Area for Gough and Tristan da Cunha?

The United Kingdom’s Minister of State in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Right Honourable Sir Alan Duncan, MP, has announced significant increases in the UK's Overseas Territory Marine Protected Area coverage with new MPAs to be declared around the Pitcairn Islands and St Helena and planned for Ascension Island in the South Atlantic in 2019.  He further stated:

“And to those I can add Tristan da Cunha, which is aiming to establish a regime for protecting the waters across its entire maritime zone.  It’ll be driven by the community, it will be science-led and will meet both local economic and community needs.  Indeed this proposal would provide more than three quarters of a million square kilometres of protected ocean, which would make it the largest in the South Atlantic.  It could also surround Gough Island - which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the world’s finest bird life, like the Rockhopper Penguin and the Tristan Albatross” (click here).

A Critically Endangered Tristan Albotross Diomeda dabbenena on Inacessible Island, photograph by Brad Robson

The Minister made the announcement in a speech to the 2016 Our Ocean Conference in Washington, DC, USA on 15 September this year.  The Tristan MPA is slated to be proclaimed in 2020 (click here).

Territorial waters (to 12 nautical miles) around Gough and Inaccessible Islands in the Tristan group are already protected as part of their status as nature reserves, Ramsar Wetlands of International Significance and as a combined World Heritage site, although fishing for Tristan Rock Lobster Jasus tristani continues around both islands.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 November 2016

Hutton’s Shearwater takes a hard hit from the Kaikoura earthquake

A landslip caused by the recent 7.8-earthquake centred on the coastal tourist town of Kaikoura in New Zealand’s South Island is reported to have “wiped away” half of a breeding colony of the Endangered (and locally endemic) Hutton's Shearwater Puffinus huttoni (click here).

Hutton's Shearwater fledgling, photograph from the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust 

Hutton’s Shearwater breeds in the austral summer (September - March) at only two alpine localities 1200–1800 m above sea level in the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains. “This is the only place in the world where this species breeds and its population has been dropping alarmingly for years.”  The two colonies together form an Important Bird Area.

Half of the Kowhai Valley colony, the larger of the two, has been “swept away”, according to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation which is currently attempting to gauge how many birds have been lost.  The other mountain colony, Shearwater Stream, is not thought to have been affected.

"The total population was only 110 000 -- quite small really, for a shearwater," says Karen Baird of the NGO Forest & Bird (New Zealand’s BirdLife International partner), who predicts that at least 25% of the species’ breeding population will have been lost by the earthquake - although the number could be as high as 49%.

The fenced translocation colony established in 2005 on the Kaikoura Peninsula close to the sea that is managed by the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust is thought to be safe: "It's not a steep site, and it's covered in grass."

In the meantime Kaikoura is near-completely cut off with its coastal access roads blocked by landslips.  People are being urged to stay away from DOC-managed tracks and conservation areas in areas affected by the earthquake until further notice.  Follow regular updates on the situation from DOC here.

Read past articles in ACAP Latest News on the conservation of Hutton’s Shearwater here.

Selected Literature:

Sommer, E., Bell, M., Bradfield, P., Dunlop, K., Gaze, P., Harrow, G., McGahan, P., Morrisey, M., Walford, D. & Cuthbert, R. 2009.  Population trends, breeding success and predation rates of Hutton's shearwater (Puffinus huttoni): a 20 year assessment.  Notornis  56: 144-153.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 November 2016

An eight-kilometre fence protects threatened Hawaiian Petrels on Mauna Loa

The Vulnerable Hawaiian Petrel Pterodroma sandwichensis is endemic to the high Hawaiian islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai and Maui in the north Pacific.  The “big island” of Hawaii supports a small breeding population of around 75 pairs at high altitude on the volcanic peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.  These birds are at risk to feral cats Felis catus, despite the barren nature of the environment in which they breed in holes and crevices in lava fields.

Hawaiian Petrel, photograph by Andre Raine

To protect the Mauna Loa population an eight-kilometre long cat-proof fence, the largest in the United States, has been built by the National Park Service that encompasses 600 acres (245 ha) to keep the cats out.  Construction commenced in 2013 outside the breeding season and has now been completed.

“The specifically designed barrier is more than six feet [1.8 m] high, and has a curved top section that prevents cats from climbing over it.”

Watch a six-minute video on the Hawaiian Petrels breeding on Mauna Loa.

View videos on the fence construction:

http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2016/10/27/video-largest-cat-proof-fence-built-on-largest-volcano/

http://www.metronews.ca/news/world/2016/11/04/hawaii-cat-fence-endangered-birds.html

See also:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/mbvd/americas-largest-cat-proof-fence-built-in-hawaii-to-protect?utm_term=.ljypOByBZ#.wr2EZBRBw

It remains to be seen whether the protected Hawaiian Petrels in the absence of feral cats will be deleteriously affected by alien rodents, to which the new fence presumably will not be a barrier.  Rodents have been recorded in the diet of feral cats on Mauna Loa (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 November 2016s

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
Australia

Tel: +61 3 6165 6674