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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Pacific Seabird Group to meet in Oahu, Hawaii in February 2016: registration opens this month

The Pacific Seabird Group will hold its 43rd Annual Meeting over four days from 10-13 February 2016 at Turtle Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, USA, with seabird professionals from across North America and the Pacific expected to attend.  The Local Committee Chair is albatross researcher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of Pacific Rim Conservation with Nina Karnovsky as Scientific Program Chair.  Both oral and poster sessions are planned, and before and after field trips will be held.

“As home to some of the greatest plant and animal biodiversity on the planet in addition to some of the world’s largest seabird colonies, Hawaii offers the perfect venue for PSG’s annual meeting and serves as a mid-point between our membership which spans the Pacific Rim and beyond.  In keeping with our locale this year, the meeting theme is “Seabirds: Responses and Resilience” and there will be a variety of technical sessions and symposia in keeping with this theme.”

Early registration and abstract submissions open on 21 August 2015.  Visit the meeting’s website for more information on important dates and other details.

The meeting venue is close to the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge where attempts are being made to create a new breeding colony of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis (click here).


A Laysan Albatross eyes up three models in the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, photograph by Lindsay Young

Click here to access abstracts from the 2014 PSG annual meeting.

Meanwhile it has been reported that the (UK) Seabird Group will hold its 13th International Conference in September 2016; details will follow as they become available.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 August 2015

An opportunity for volunteers: Balearic Shearwaters set to be counted at sea from a Portuguese peninsula

ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwaters Puffinus mauretanicus, along with other seabirds, are set to be counted from today by the Peniche Seabird Project as they fly past Cabo Carvoeiro on the tip of the peninsula at the Portuguese coastal city of Peniche north of Lisbon.  The project aims for a complete coverage of systematic counts until mid-November this year.

The Peniche Seabird Project’s website gives the scope of the project:

“The Peniche peninsula breaks off the Portuguese coast and functions as a migration obstacle for seabirds following the Iberian coast heading south to African waters in autumn.  The seabirds have to round the peninsula and are therefore easy to observe in the right wind conditions.  Off the peninsula lies the Berlengas Islands which hold internationally important numbers of breeding Cory’s Shearwaters [Calonectris borealis] and Madeiran Petrels [Madeiran Storm Petrel Oceanodroma castro].  The waters off these islands are deep and rich in nutrients and are an added attraction to feeding seabirds. Despite these possibilities, the migration past Peniche is poorly documented compared to European migration watchpoints further north.  The scope of this project is to document the numbers of seabirds migrating past Peniche during15th August – 15th November 2015.  Particular attention will be paid to the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater.  Seabirds will not just be counted, but flock sizes, flight directions and – where applicable – age categories will be quantified for later analysis.”


Balearic Shearwater at sea, photograph by Pep Arcos

The project is being managed by Helder Cardoso from Portugal and Erik Hirschfeld from Sweden, along with Johan Elmberg, also from Sweden, as scientific advisor (click here).

The project is looking for volunteers prepared to stay at least two weeks at Peniche to undertake “standardised counts of migrating birds from dawn until 10 am and from 3 pm to dusk each day, except for days with storms, when counting will have to take place for the full day.”  Transport to Peniche and free accommodation is on offer (click here).

ACAP Latest News aims to report on the project from time to time as information becomes available.

Across the water, Balearic Shearwaters are also the subject of a planned survey this month off the coast of southern England (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 August 2015

Grey Petrels regain their previous breeding sites on Macquarie Island as its vegetation recovers post pest eradication

The following report by Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger Anna Lashko is taken from the on-line newsletter "This week at Macquarie Island" for 24 July.  It shows that ACAP-listed Grey Petrels Procellaria cinerea are returning to previous breeding sites following vegetation recovery after the eradication of European Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and rodents by the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP) four years ago.

“On our recent trip down island, Andrea [Turbett] and I went searching for grey petrels at some of the remote west coast breeding sites.  Many of these sites suffered major degradation in the years prior to the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program [sic] due to the combination of rabbit burrowing destabilising sites and high grazing pressure removing vegetation cover.  During the worst years, some of these sites were so unstable that rangers were unable to safely visit to check if petrels were present.  Happily, these sites are now recovering and are once again accessible.

Many of these sites have had no sign of breeding for around 10 years, so I did not hold out huge hopes for a successful search.  Still, not finding birds breeding is an important result and so off we headed northwards along the coast from Davis Point one grey morning.  Sure enough, at the first site we checked (North Double Point) there was no sign of petrel activity - no burrows with scratching at the entrance, or poo or the distinctive petrel smell.

Our second stop for the day was at Flynn Point where, searching up on the ridgeline, Andrea poked her head up from a burrow entrance with a cheeky grin.  “You'll be visiting here again!” she said, and passed me the camera she'd just poked into the burrow to see into its depths.  There was a downy grey petrel chick, the first seen at the site since 2004!  We were lucky again at our third and final spot for the day, Sellick Pt, where we found another grey petrel chick, the first at that site since 2006.

It was a red letter petrel hunting day for the rangers and a very promising one for grey petrels on Macquarie Island.”

Click here for a previous ACAP Latest News item on Macca’s Grey Petrels.


Grey Petrel breeding on Macquarie Island

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 August 2015

“167 individuals versus millions of hooks”: plight of the Amsterdam Albatross

Jean-Baptiste Thiebot (Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé,Villiers-en-Bois, France) and colleagues have published this month in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems on the threats the tiny population of Amsterdam Albatrosses Diomedea amsterdamensis faces from longline fisheries.

The paper’s abstract follows:

1. Industrial fisheries represent one of the most serious threats worldwide to seabird conservation.  Death of birds in fishing operations (i.e. bycatch) has especially adverse effects on populations of albatrosses, which have extremely low fecundity.

2. The single population worldwide of Amsterdam albatross (Diomedea amsterdamensis) comprises only 167 individuals and risks considerable decline over the mid-term from additional mortality levels potentially induced by fisheries.  The priority actions listed in the current conservation plan for this species included characterizing the longline fisheries operating within its range, dynamically analysing the overlap between albatrosses and these fisheries, and providing fisheries management authorities with potential impact estimates of longline fisheries on the Amsterdam albatross.

3. During all life-cycle stages and year quarters the birds overlapped extensively with fishing effort in the southern Indian and Atlantic oceans.   Fishing effort, and consequently overlap score (calculated as the product of fishing effort and time spent by the birds in a spatial unit) was highest in July–September (45% of the hooks annually deployed). Just three fleets (Taiwanese, Japanese and Spanish) contributed to >98% of the overlap scores for each stage (72% from the Taiwanese fleet alone, on average).  Daily overlap scores were higher for the non-breeding versus the breeding stages (3-fold factor on average).

4. Based on previous bycatch rates for other albatross species, this study estimated that longline fisheries currently have the potential to remove ~2–16 individuals (i.e. ~5%) each year from the total Amsterdam albatross population, depending on whether bycatch mitigation measures were or were not systematically employed during the fishing operations.

5. Recent bycatch mitigation measures may be instrumental in the conservation of the Amsterdam albatross.  This study suggests three further key recommendations: (1) to focus conservation efforts on the austral winter; (2) to require all operating vessels to report ring recoveries; and (3) to allocate special regulation of fishing operations in the areas of peak bycatch risk for the Amsterdam albatrosses.”

Amsterdam Albatross off Amsterdam Island, photograph by Kirk Zufelt


Thiebot, J.-B., Delord, K., Barbraud, C., Marteau, C. & Weimerskirch, H. 2015.  167 individuals versus millions of hooks: bycatch mitigation in longline fisheries underlies conservation of Amsterdam albatrosses.  Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems  DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2578  DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2578.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 August 2015

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission discusses seabird mitigation while meeting in the Federated States of Micronesia

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has been holding the 11th Regular Session of its Scientific Committee in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia over 5-13 August last and this week.

Working and Information Papers being tabled at the meeting on the issue of seabird mortality and mitigation measures are listed here by authors and title.

Baird K., Small, C., Bell, E., Walker, K., Elliot, G., Nicholls, D., Alderman, R., Scofield, P., Depp, L., Thomas, B. & Dias, M.P. 2015.  The overlap of threatened seabirds with reported bycatch areas between 25° and 30° South in the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Area.  WCPFC-SC11-2015/ EB-WP-09.  18 pp.

Katsumata, N., Ochi, D., Matsunaga, H., Inoue, Y. & Minami, H. 2015.  At-sea experiment to develop the mitigation measures of seabirds for small longline vessels in the western North Pacific.  WCPFC-SC11-2015/ EB-WP-10. Rev. 1. 10 pp

Inoue, Y., Alderman, R., Taguchi, M., Sakuma, K., Kitamura, T., Phillips, R.A., Burg, T.M., Small, C., Sato, M., Papworth, W. & Minami, H. 2015.  Progress of the development of the DNA identification for the southern albatross bycatch in longline fishery.  WCPFC-SC11-2015/ EB- IP-09 Rev. 1.  22 pp.


Antipodean Albatross: at risk from longliners in the Pacific, photograph by Albatross Encounter

The Albatross and Petrel Agreement is being represented at the meeting by its Executive Secretary, Warren Papworth.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 August 2015