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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The ACAP Seabird Bycatch Identification Guide is published in English, with a further seven language-versions expected soon

The ACAP Seabird Bycatch Identification Guide is primarily intended for use at sea by fisheries observers to assist in the identification of albatrosses and some commonly caught petrels and shearwaters brought aboard after being killed in longline operations.  Where possible, species identification is based on those characteristics that are most likely to be preserved in dead birds that may have been underwater for long periods of time.  In most cases, these are primarily bill size and colour.  Because dead birds may look quite different to live birds, where possible, the photos included in the ID guide are of dead birds.  In some cases it will not be possible to identify a bird to a single species, but it should be possible in most cases to narrow the identification down to two or three possibilities.  For species with a restricted range, distribution maps have been added to eliminate them from the possible options.

 

The guide covers 37 procellariiform species, including 30 of the 31 listed within the Agreement.  The ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus is not currently covered.  French, Spanish (both ACAP official languages) and Mandarin versions will be available next month, and Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Chinese Taipei versions are expected to become available in October.  The ACAP Secretariat can be contacted for commercial print-quality files, in any of these languages, to print for users’ local needs.

Text, map and identification photographs for Buller's Albatross Thalassarche bulleri from the guide

The Seabird Bycatch Identification Guide has been printed on glossy water-resistant card with a ring binding that allows it to lie flat, although individual users are encouraged to print and use it in the format that best suits their needs.  It has been produced and published (under a Creative Commons license) in collaboration with Japan’s National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries.  It is planned to produce an interactive, electronic version that could be used on mobile devices.

The principal authors of the guide are Nadeena Beck, Yukiko Inoue and Hiroshi Minami.  ACAP gratefully acknowledges Richard Phillips, Ross Wanless and Karen Baird for their helpful suggestions on the original draft and also thanks Hiroshi Hasegawa, Hadoram Shirihai, James Lloyd, Aleks Terauds, Ron LeValley, Barry Baker, Ross Wanless, Andrea Angel, Roger Kirkwood, Scott Shaffer, John Cooper, Tony Palliser, Graham Robertson, Brook Whylie, Tui de Roy, David Thompson, Drew Lee, Flavio Quintana, Marienne de Villiers, Ben Phalan, the Department of Conservation, New Zealand, Mike Double and Peter Hodum for their photographs.

Reference:

ACAP Secretariat & National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries 2015.  Seabird Bycatch Identification Guide, updated August 2015.  Hobart: ACAP Secretariat.  100 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 August 2015

ACAP Breeding Site No. 81. Top and Bottom Islands, where White-chinned Petrels breed among Tussac Grass

Top (10.6 ha) and Bottom (5.7 ha) Islands lie close together near the entrance to Port William in East Falkland in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*, three quarters of a kilometre off the Cape Pembroke coastline.  Both islands are covered in Tussac Grass Parodiochloa flabellata.

Top Island from the air, photograph by Nick Rendell

Bottom Island, photograph by Nick Rendell 

 The presence of ACAP-listed White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis was first reported on Top Island in 2001.  Although visited and searched in 2005, no White-chins were then found breeding on Top Island.  Breeding was confirmed on Bottom Island in 2005, although birds had previously been recorded calling while flying over the island in 2003.  Two occupied White-chinned Petrel burrows found on Bottom Island in 2005 had “broad, wet entrances and positioning very similar to the burrows on Kidney Island”.

 

White-chinned Petrel amomng the Tussac on Top Island, photograph by Kalinka Rexer-Huber

Visits under permit were made in October 2012 to both islands to survey for burrowing petrels.  White-chinned Petrels were found to be breeding on both islands, with the total breeding population likely to be of the order of tens rather than hundreds of pairs on Top but perhaps more on Bottom.  More accurate estimates were not feasible due to the difficulties encountered separating White-chin burrows from those of Magellanic Penguins Spheniscus magellanicus without the use of playback or burrowscope in the breeding season.

Sooty Shearwaters Puffinus griseus were first reported breeding on Top and Bottom Islands in 2001.  In 2012 it was estimated there were 8300 burrows of this species on Bottom Island and c. 18 000 on Top Island.  Grey-backed Storm Petrels Garrodia nereis may breed on Top Island based on a few small burrows found in 2012.

In September 2001 Norway or Brown Rats Rattus norvegicus were eradicated from Top and Bottom Islands by ground baiting.  Confirmation they had remained rat free came in 2009 and 2012 following site visits, with some evidence that the numbers of burrowing shearwaters had increased by 2012 as a consequence.

The two islands are Crown Land and have been proposed for inclusion in the National Nature Reserve (and the Important Bird Area – IBA) of Kidney and Cochon Islands.  A management plan for Kidney Island, Cochon Island and Top and Bottom Islands is currently under review.

White-chinned Petrels are known to breed at only two other localities in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*: Kidney and New Islands.

With thanks to Clare Cockwell, Nick Rendell and Kalinka Rexer-Huber for information and photographs.

Selected Literature:

Brown, D. & Chadderton, L. 2001.  Investigation of the Potential for Rat Eradication in the Falkland Islands.  Report on Preliminary Visit, 27 Jan - 3 March 2001.  Unpublished report to Falklands Conservation.  32 pp.

Brown, D., Chadderton, L. & Brown, K. 2001.  Report on the Falkland Conservation Rat Eradication Project August -– October 2001.  Unpublished report to Falklands Conservation.  22 pp.

Poncet, S., Passfield, K. & Rexer-Huber, K. 2012.  Burrowing Petrel Surveys: Top and Bottom Islands and Tussac Point in Port William and Sophie and Amy Islands in Port Pleasant.  Stanley: Beaver Island LandCare.  15 pp.

Reid, T.A., Lecoq, M. & Catry, P. 2007.  The White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis population of the Falkland Islands.  Marine Ornithology 35: 57-60.

Wolfaardt, A.[C.], Rendell, N. & Brickle, P. 2010.  Falkland Islands Implementation Plan for the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP): Review of Current Work and a Prioritised Work Programme for the Future.  Stanley: Falkland Islands Government.  57 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 August 2015

*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.

A Shy Albatross flies free with an ingested fishing line off Australia

On 13 June 2015 Rob Hyson photographed an adult Shy Albatross Thalassarche cauta with at least a metre of fishing line bearing a weight dangling from its bill while participating in an ocean-going trip organized by Sydney Pelagics & Nature Watching Tours out of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

 

A Shy Albatross flies with a trailing fishing line, photograph by Rob Hyson

It seems likely that the bird had ingested a longline hook, probably during line hauling, and had then been cut loose as it came aboard the fishing vessel.  Albatrosses of several species with ingested or embedded hooks have been seen from time to time at their breeding sites but it is rare to spot – and then photograph – one in flight at sea.

Widespread adoption of the best-practice mitigation measures of deploying bird-scaring lines, adequate line weighting and night setting, as advocated by ACAP, will greatly reduce the mortality of albatrosses from both pelagic and demersal longline fishing.

Click here for the trip report for 13 June.

With thanks to Rob Hyson for information and photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 August 2015

Habla Español? Three satellite-tracked Pink-footed Shearwaters from Chile approach the Canadian border

The Vulnerable Pink-footed Shearwater Puffinus creatopus is a recently listed ACAP species.  A breeding endemic to Chile it migrates to the northern hemisphere – as far as Canadian waters - after breeding.  Over recent years the species’ trans-equatorial migration route along the eastern Pacific seaboard has been studied by use of transmitters.

Solar-powered satellite transmitters were again placed on Pink-footed Shearwaters in April this year on Isla Mocha in Chile.  Currently, there are three birds with transmitters near the USA-Canada border in Washington State, three off southern California, two in Baja, Mexico, and two off Peru (click here for updates).

Pink-footed Shearwater migration routes covered to date

Pink-footed Shearwater, photograph by Peter Hodum

Click here for an earlier posting on the shearwater's migration.

The tracking study is a project of the U.S. Geological Survey and Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge.

Selected Literature:

Commission for Environmental Cooperation 2005.  North American Conservation Action Plan: Pink-footed Shearwater.  Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.  vii + 49 pp.

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada 2004.  COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Pink-footed Shearwater.  Ottawa: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.  vii + 22 pp.

Environment Canada, 2008.  Recovery Strategy for the Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) and the Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) in Canada.  Ottawa: Environment Canada.  vii + 44 pp.

Hinojosa, S.A. & Hodum, P.J. 2008.  Plan nacional para la conservación de la fardela de vientre blanco Puffinus creatopus Coues, 1864 en Chile.  Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF) and Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente (CONAMA), Chile.  34 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 August 2015

Protecting Seabirds in the Mediterranean: Advancing the Marine Protected Area Network Workshop to be held in Malta

An international workshop on Marine Important Bird Areas in Malta and the Mediterranean will be held over 23 – 25 November 2015 organized by the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project and BirdLife International  in the Hotel Ta’ Cenc, Gozo, Malta.  The workshop is described as being “a key opportunity to gather knowledge and experience on protecting seabirds across national boundaries and international waters of the Mediterranean as well as set the way forward for international collaborations in protecting our common seabird heritage.”

“Within the Mediterranean seabirds face threats both on land and at sea, such as overfishing, by-catch, invasive predators, habitat destruction from poor planning and marine pollution. However only 4% of the Mediterranean is currently protected through the EU Natura 2000 network in Europe and the Barcelona Convention’s Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance.  At a regional scale there are still many important gaps to fill in the protected area network for seabirds, particularly for sites at sea. The meeting will enable scientists, nature conservationists and policy makers to further coordinate efforts for seabird protection at a regional scale through capacity building and the sharing of specialist knowledge.

The meeting will start with the presentation of a draft inventory of Marine Important Bird Areas for seabirds in Maltese and international waters identified under the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project.  This will be followed by sessions on knowledge sharing and gap analysis for the entire Mediterranean region, identifying sites within and beyond national jurisdiction, priority areas and policy mechanisms from across the Mediterranean.”

Click here to read more about the workshop, including the meeting agenda and registration details.

Yelkouan Shearwaters at sea

Malta supports breeding populations of both Yelkouan Puffinus yelkouan and Scopoli’s Calonectris diomedea Shearwaters.  The ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater P. mauretanicus also breeds within the Mediterranean.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 August 2015

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