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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Feasibility study for the eradication of albatross-attacking House Mice on Marion Island published

BirdLife South Africa has published a study in its new Occasional Report Series that considers the feasibility of eradicating introduced House Mice Mus musculus on South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island.  Marion’s mice are now known to be attacking ACAP-listed albatrosses and are thus regarded as a serious threat requiring eradication (click here).  The publication follows a site visit last year by New Zealand invasive species expert John Parkes (click here).

Grey headed HAlbatross mice injuries Ben Dilley 

Grey-headed Albatross chicks attacked by mice at Marion Island, photograph by Ben Dilley

The study concludes that “eradication of mice from Marion Island is definitely possible with a high chance of success.”  The study makes a number of operational and research & information recommendations that should be addressed prior to an eradication attempt by aerial baiting.

Following the Parkes report BirdLife South Africa has stated “we do … need to do some further research, to answer key questions relating to the logistics of the mission.  How do we avoid or minimize non-target impacts on some of the birds which will be at risk? How much bait will be needed? When is the best time to start the baiting? These questions are being developed into a research plan that we hope to put into action in 2017” (click here).

With thanks to Ross Wanless.

Reference:

Parkes, J. 2014.  Eradication of House Mice Mus musculus from Marion Island: a Review of Feasibility, Constraints and Risks.  In: Wanless, R.M. (Ed.).  BirdLife South Africa Occasional Report Series No. 1.  Johannesburg: BirdLife South Africa.  27 pp

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 September 2016

Creating a colony: eight Newell’s Shearwater chicks translocated to within a predator-proof fence

Seven Endangered Newell's Shearwater Puffinus newelli chicks have been flown by helicopter from their montane-nesting areas in the Hawaiian island of Kauai to a coastal site protected by a predator-proof fence at Nihoku within the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.  They (along with an eighth chick found earlier) are being raised by hand feeding to fledge from the same site where 10 Vulnerable Hawaiian Petrels Pterodroma sandwichensis chicks were successfully translocated last year in the hopes of starting new protected colonies of both species (click here).

newells shearwater sep 2011 eric vanderwerf

Newell's Shearwater, photograph by Eric Vanderwerf

Translocated Newell's Shearwaters, photographs by Andre Raine

“The translocation, which involved two separate teams and more than a dozen people, took place in Kauai's rugged mountain interior and along the coast.  In the early morning, a team was dropped by helicopter onto a mountain peak located in the Upper Limahuli Preserve... The team members headed out to seven different nest burrows that had been monitored throughout the breeding season.  Seven large, healthy chicks were carefully removed from their burrows by hand, placed into pet carriers, and carried up the side of the mountain to a waiting helicopter.  The chicks were flown to the Princeville airport, then driven to the refuge and their new home within the predator-proof fence.  An eighth chick was found several weeks earlier in the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve … where it had left its burrow and become lost” (click here for the full news release).

Photos and videos of the translocation can be found here.

Read more here.

Latest News from Pacific Rim Conservation:

"Day six and the translocated Newell's Shearwater chicks at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge are doing well and have settled into their new homes. They have also started to lose their fuzz which is being replaced with new feathers to help them fly out to sea. That mohawk won't be around for too much longer!"

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 September 2016

Commission meeting hears Amsterdam and Tristan Albatrosses are at risk in the Indian Ocean from tuna longlining

Ross Wanless (BirdLife South Africa) and Wiesława Misiak (ACAP Secretariat) presented a document (WPEB12-28) at the 12th Meeting of the Working Party on Ecosystems and Bycatch (WPEB12) of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held in Victoria, Mahé, Seychelles last week.  The meeting document gave an update to the status of seabirds, including ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels, within the IOTC area.

Amsterdam Albatross, photograph by Scott Shaffer

The document’s abstract follows:

“New data on the status of albatrosses and petrels, the seabird most at risk from bycatch in tuna longline fisheries, are presented.  On the whole, downward population trends continue, giving cause for serious concerns and highlighting the need to continue and increase efforts from longline fleets to prevent seabird bycatch.  New information on Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena highlights the Indian Ocean as an important part of this Critically Endangered albatross’s foraging range.  Several species, notably Amsterdam Albatross D. amsterdamensis and Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris have undergone strong recoveries in recent years, possibly reflecting improved use of seabird bycatch mitigation measures.”

ACAP was represented at the meeting by Anton Wolfaardt, Convenor of ACAP’s Seabird Bycatch Working Group (click here).

Click here to access other seabird papers presented at the Seychelles meeting.

Reference:

Wanless, R.M. & Misiak, W. 2016.  A status update of seabirds in the IOTC areaIOTC-2016-WPEB12-28.  7 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 September 2016

 

 

Newell’s and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters are eating more plastic in Hawaii

Elizabeth Kain (Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, Hawaii, USA) and colleagues have published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution on increasing plastic pollutant levels in two Hawaiian shearwaters.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The ingestion of plastic by seabirds has been used as an indicator of pollution in the marine environment.  On Kaua‘i, HI, USA, 50.0 % of Newell’s (Puffinus newelli) and 76.9 % of wedge-tailed shearwater (Ardenna pacifica) fledglings necropsied during 2007–2014 contained plastic items in their digestive tract, while 42.1 % of adult wedge-tailed shearwaters had ingested plastic.  For both species, the frequency of plastic ingestion has increased since the 1980s with some evidence that the mass and the number of items ingested per bird have also increased.  The color of plastic ingested by the shearwaters was assessed relative to beach-washed plastics by using Jaccard’s index (where J = 1 complete similarity).  The color (J = 0.65–0.68) of items ingested by both species, and the type ingested by wedge-tailed shearwaters (J = 0.85–0.87), overlapped with plastic available in the local environment indicating moderate selection for plastic color and type.  This study has shown that the Hawaiian populations of shearwaters, like many seabird species, provide useful but worrying insights into plastic pollution and the health of our oceans.”

 

Newell's Shearwater, photograph by Eric Vanderwerf

Reference:

Kain, E.C., Lavers, J.L., Berg, C.J., Raine, A.F. & Bond, A.L. 2016.  Plastic ingestion by Newell’s (Puffinus newelli) and wedge-tailed shearwaters (Ardenna pacifica) in Hawaii.  Environmental Science and Pollution Research  doi: 10.1007/s11356-016-7613-1.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 September 2016

Progress with the eradication of Gough Island’s mice with a site visit by the Restoration Programme Operations Advisor, Keith Springer

The Operations Advisor for the Gough Island Restoration Programme, Keith Springer, is currently on Gough Island.  The programme aims to eradicate the island’s “killer” House Mice Mus musculus that are killing many of the island’s seabirds by aerial bait drop from helicopters in 2019.  As regularly reported in ACAP Latest News the Gough mice are leading the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena to extinction by killing downy chicks every winter, leading to an unsustainably low breeding success (click here).

Tristan Albatross chick attacked on the neck by Gough's House Mice, photograph by Peter Ryan

Keith is accompanying the South African annual relief of its weather station on the island, having travelled on South Africa’s Antarctic research and supply ship, the S.A. Agulhas II earlier this month.  In his blog he writes:

Firstly, the preparation of applications for various relevant approvals to do the work must be done.  Secondly, operational planning needs to be robust, and based on undertaking actions and using methodologies that maximise the chance of successful eradication.  Finally, there is an enormous amount of detailed logistical planning to be done.  Gough is around 2,800 km from Cape Town, the closest city, so once on the island you can’t go back if you forget anything.  Everything down to the last shackle, tent peg and drum of fuel has to be thought through and bought as the whole operation depends on having the right gear to do the job, plus of course enough spares for unforeseen events.  It is this level of detailed planning and procurement that takes much of the time.

Future reports will detail Keith’s experiences ashore.

With thanks to John Kelly.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 September 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.

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