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 Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and the conservation of albatrosses down the ages

Graham Barwell (School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication, University of Wollongong) has written on Coleridge’s 1798 epic The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and its influence on conservation attitudes towards albatrosses from then to now, a period of more than two centuries.  His paper was published in the now discontinued Australian Kunapipi: Journal of Postcolonial Writing and Culture in 2007, but apparently has only been made available online this year.

There is no abstract or summary provided, so here are the opening and closing paragraphs of Barwell’s illustrated essay:

“”What is remarkable about Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ (1798), is that, despite its having a powerful impact on the imaginations of its readers in the nineteenth century, it had, as the epigraph indicates, almost no effect on the practices or behaviour aboard ships, whether among sailors or emigrant passengers.

‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ has been recast as conservationist poem even though it had almost no effect on the actual treatment of albatrosses in the century or so following its publication.  Its significance lies not so much in its environmental advocacy, even if that is a popular way of reading it today, as in its providing the conception of the bird and establishing its profile in the Western imagination, so that some of the gravitas coming from the poem’s canonical status can be harnessed to the international movement for albatross protection.  This is no small achievement for a poem which began its public life by disappointing those buyers more than two hundred years ago who thought they were getting a naval songbook.”

There is no clear evidence what species of albatross was Coleridge's, but perhaps a Sooty?

Photograph by Ross Wanless 


Barwell, G. [2007] 2014.  Coleridge’s albatross and the impulse to seabird conservation.  Kunapipi 29: 22-61.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 October 2014

The South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation discusses seabird mortality and mitigation this week

The Second Scientific Committee Meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) is being held in Honolulu, USA this and next week.

According to the provisional agenda for the meeting it will “[r]eview international best practices in bycatch, incidental catches and mitigation options in pelagic and bottom fisheries, and make appropriate recommendations[, i]ncluding, inter alia, the potential use of trigger limits to manage the incidental catch of seabirds in the SPRFMO Convention Area and advice on implementing, inter alia, the measures contained in Annex 2 of CMM 2.04 (minimising seabird bycatch).”

Albatrosses gather behind a trawler, photograph by Graham Parker

The following papers relevant to seabird mitigation are to be presented at the meeting:

Debski, L. & Pierre, J. 2014.  Seabird risk and trawler discharge.  SC-02-12.  7 pp.

Debski, L. & Pierre, J. 2014.  Seabird cryptic mortality and risk from fisheriesSC-02-13.  6 pp.

Debski, L. & Pierre, J. 2014.  Observer coverage to monitor seabird captures in demersal longline and trawl fisheries. SC-02-14.  7 pp.

Garcia, M. 2014. Overview of the fisheries and seabird bycatch in Chile.  SC-02-19_rev1.  11 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 October 2014

Keeping seabirds off the hook (and away from the trawl): how many FAO National Plans of Action - Seabirds have been adopted around the World since 1998?

The International Plan of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (IPOA-Seabirds) was developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1998.  The plan encourages all FAO member countries to implement their own National Plans of Action (NPOA-Seabirds).

In terms of the IPOA-Seabirds, countries first assess the seabird by-catch problem within their fisheries and/or within their coastal waters.  If a bycatch problem is found to exist, each country should then develop and implement its own National Plan of Action (NPOA-Seabirds), based on the recommendations listed in the IPOA-Seabirds.

Following a meeting of its Advisory Committee in Uruguay last month and with input from the delegations of attending Parties, ACAP has updated the list of NPOA-Seabirds and of equivalent and related documents on its web site (click here).

Seven Parties to ACAP (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and Uruguay) have adopted their own plans or equivalent documents.  Of the high-seas fishing nations and entities that impact seabirds; Japan and Chinese Taipei have NPOA-Seabirds, as does the European Union.  Regular observer nations at ACAP meetings, Canada and the USA have also adopted NPOA-Seabirds.  Several of the plans cover trawling as well as longlining and for several updated versions or progress reports are also listed.

Namibia attended the Uruguay meeting as an observer and during a presentation informed it that it had produced its own NPOA-Seabirds, which was now awaiting formal adoption and promulgation of regulations.

Setting longlines at night (coupled with bird-scaring lines and an adequate weighting regime) reduces mortality of albatrosses and petrels

With thanks to Jorge Azócar R (Chile), John Barrington (Australia), Johannes Holtzhausen (Namibia), Ken Morgan (Canada) and Joost Pompert (United Kingdom) for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 October 2014

President Obama expands the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument at the edge of the breeding range of Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses

Last week U.S. President Barack Obama used his executive authority to sign a proclamation that expands the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monumentto  more than six times in size from that established in 2009 by former U.S. President George W. Bush (click here).

The expanded marine protected area now includes the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) around Johnston and Wake Atolls and Jarvis Island in the south-central Pacific Ocean – upped from the previous 50 nautical miles.  The monument is closed to commercial fishing.  The expansion is less than that originally proposed due to the concerns of commercial tuna fishing interests (click here).  The original extension proposal would have included the EEZ waters around Howland and Baker Islands, Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll.  Now the existing 50-nautical mile offshore protection zones within the monument around these localities will not change.  The area of the expanded monument is nearly 1.27 million km², up from Bush’s 199 500 km², but less than the over 2 million km² first proposed by Obama earlier this year.

Wake Atoll lies towards the edge of the current breeding range of the Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis.  A few pairs of Laysans have attempted breeding on the atoll in recent years with a chick successfully fledging in 2001 and two eggs, both unsuccessful, laid in 2013.  Black-footed Albatrosses P. nigripes also visit Wake in small numbers but successful breeding has not been reported although eggs have been laid occasionally.  Breeding by albatrosses on the other islands within the monument does not seem to have been reported - although both Black-foots and Laysans are listed as rare visitors to Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (click here).

The 2001 Laysan Albatross chick on Wake Atoll, photograph by R. Wheeler

“The expanded Monument [includes] over 130 newly protected sea mounts, which are hotspots of biodiversity that harbor uncounted numbers of new and unique marine species.  The expansion will better protect the habitat of animals with large migration and foraging ranges that stretch throughout the area, including sea turtles, marine mammals, and manta rays.  The Monument is also home to millions of seabirds that forage over hundreds of miles and bring food back to their rookeries on the islands and atolls.  These birds serve as a conveyor belt of energy bringing nutrients caught at sea back into the near shore environment where they help sustain the ecosystems.

Commercial fishing and other resource extraction activities, such as deep sea mining, are banned in the Monument.  In recognition of the importance of encouraging and supporting access to federally managed areas, recreational and traditional fishing that is consistent with the conservation goals of the Monument will continue to be allowed in the expanded Monument.”

 “Previously, only about three percent of U.S. territorial waters were protected from commercial fishing, and 95 percent of that area was within the nearby Papahānaumokuākea National Monument, established by President Bush in 2006.” (click here).

With thanks to Mark Rauzon for information.

Selected Literature:

Rauzon, M.J., Boyle, D., Everett, W.T. & Gilardi, J. 2008.  The status of the birds of Wake Atoll.  Atoll Research Bulletin No. 561.  41 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 September 2014

Moving iron around the Southern Ocean: what can Northern Giant Petrels contribute?

Steve Wing (Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series on levels of iron in the guano of sub-Antarctic seabirds on New Zealand's Auckland Islands, including the ACAP-listed Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Biological vectors are important for redistribution of nutrients in many ecological systems.  While availability of iron (Fe) to phytoplankton limits pelagic productivity in the Southern Ocean, biomagnification within marine food webs can lead to high concentrations of Fe in the diet of seabirds and marine mammals.  We investigated patterns in concentrations of the micronutrients Fe, Co, Zn and Mn, and the toxins Cd and As, in the guano of oceanic, coastal and predatory seabirds and in faeces of 2 species of marine mammals that congregate to breed in the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands. We found that much of the variability in concentrations of Fe, Co, Zn and Mn among species could be explained by foraging behaviour and by trophic position. We observed concentrations of Fe to be 8 orders of magnitude higher in the guano of predators and coastal foragers than in the sub-Antarctic mixed layer. High concentrations of As and Cd were associated with organic matter sources from macroalgae.  Analyses of the molar ratio Fe:Al indicated that Fe within food webs supporting seabirds has likely been extensively recycled from its lithogenic source.  Patterns in Fe:N among species indicated that Fe is concentrated 2 to 4 orders of magnitude in the guano of seabirds compared to limiting conditions for phytoplankton growth in sub-Antarctic waters.  These data highlight the potential role of seabirds and marine mammals in the redistribution of micronutrients in the Southern Ocean and their likely role as key nutrient vectors in the ecosystem, particularly around the sub-Antarctic islands during the breeding season.”


Northern Giant Petrel, photograph by Marienne de Villiers


Wing, S.R., Jack, L., Shatova, O., Leichter, J.J., Barr, D., Frew, R.D. & Gault-Ringold, M. 2014.  Seabirds and marine mammals redistribute bioavailable iron in the Southern Ocean.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 510: 1-13.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 September 2014.