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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Costs of reproduction in annually-breeding Black-browed and biennially-breeding Grey-headed Albatrosses

Glenn Crossin (Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) and colleagues have published in the journal Antarctic Science on costs of reproduction in annually-breeding Black-browed Thalassarche melanophris and biennially breeding Grey-headed T. chrysostoma Albatrosses based on blood and feather corticosterone levels.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We investigated the physiology of two closely related albatross species relative to their breeding strategy: black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophris) breed annually, while grey-headed albatrosses (T. chrysostoma) breed biennially.  From observations of breeding fate and blood samples collected at the end of breeding in one season and feather corticosterone levels (fCort) sampled at the beginning of the next breeding season, we found that in both species some post-breeding physiological parameters differed according to breeding outcome (successful, failed, deferred).  Correlations between post-breeding physiology and fCort, and links to future breeding decisions, were examined.  In black-browed albatrosses, post-breeding physiology and fCort were not significantly correlated, but fCort independently predicted breeding decision the next year, which we interpret as a possible migratory carry-over effect.  In grey-headed albatrosses, post-breeding triglyceride levels were negatively correlated with fCort, but only in females, which we interpret as a potential cost of reproduction.  However, this potential cost did not carry-over to future breeding in the grey-headed albatrosses.  None of the variables predicted future breeding decisions.  We suggest that biennial breeding in the grey-headed albatrosses may have evolved as a strategy to buffer against the apparent susceptibility of females to negative physiological costs of reproduction.  Future studies are needed to confirm this.”

With thanks to Richard Phillips 

Grey headed Albatross by Rowan Treblico

Grey-headed Albatrosses, photograph by Rowan Treblico


Crossin, G.T., Phillips, R.A., Lattin, C.R., Romero, L.M., Bordeleau, X., Harris, C.M., Love, O.P. & Williams, T.D. 2016.  Costs of reproduction and carry-over effects in breeding albatrosses.  Antarctic Science

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 5 December 2016

Should Australia’s Shy Albatross be uplisted from Near Threatened to Vulnerable?

BirdLife International’s Globally threatened Seabird Forum has been considering the case of the Shy Albatross Thalassarche cauta, endemic to Australia and currently listed as globally Near Threatened.  Its on-line report can be read here along with expert comment on the proposal to uplist it to Vulnerable.

The report concludes “Given the threats affecting the species, the ongoing declines in the 30% of the population during the last 10 years, and the projected future declines, this species appears to qualify for uplisting to Vulnerable under criterion A2bde+3bde+4bde.”

However, following the expert commentary it received BirdLife has decided to postpone a decision on this species and keep the discussion open until 2017, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged at Near Threatened in the 2016 update.

 Shy Albatross on Albatross Island by Drew Lee

Shy Albatross on Albatross Island, photograph by Drew Lee

Selected Literature:

Abbott, C.L., Double, M.C., Baker, G.B., Gales, R., Lashko, A., Robertson, C.J.R., & Ryan, P.G. 2006.  Molecular provenance analysis for shy and white-capped albatrosses killed by fisheries interactions in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  Conservation Genetics 7: 531-542.

Alderman, R., Gales, R., Hobday, A.J. & Candy, S.G. 2010.  Post-fledging survival and dispersal of shy albatross from three breeding colonies in Tasmania.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 405:271-285.

Alderman, R.; Gales, R.; Tuck, G. N. & Lebreton, J. D. 2011.  Global population status of shy albatross and an assessment of colony-specific trends and drivers.  Wildlife Research 38: 672-686.

Baker, G.B., Double, M.C., Gales, R., Tuck, G.N., Abbott, C.L., Ryan, P.G., Petersen, S.L., Robertson, C.J.R., and Alderman, R. 2007.  A global assessment of the impact of fisheries-related mortality on shy and white-capped albatrosses: conservation implications.  Biological Conservation 137: 319-333.

Thomson, R.B., Alderman, R.L., Tuck, G.N., Hobday, A.J. 2015.  Effects of climate change and fisheries bycatch on Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) in southern Australia.  PLoS ONE 10(6): e0127006. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127006.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 December 2016

Reduce trawler discards, increase longline mortality: a study with Mediterranean shearwaters

Andrea Soriano-Redondo (Institut de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Universitat de Barcelona, Spain) and colleagues have published on-line and open-access in the journal Scientific Reports on the likely effects of a trawler discard ban on increased longline mortality of Scopoli’s Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea in the Mediterranean.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Fisheries provide an abundant and predictable food source for many pelagic seabirds through discards, but also pose a major threat to them through bycatch, threatening their populations worldwide.  The reform of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which intends to ban discards through the landing obligation of all catches, may force seabirds to seek alternative food sources, such as baited hooks from longlines, increasing bycatch rates.  To test this hypothesis we performed a combined analysis of seabird-fishery interactions using as a model Scopoli’s shearwaters Calonectris diomedea in the Mediterranean.  Tracking data showed that the probability of shearwaters attending longliners increased exponentially with a decreasing density of trawlers.  On-board observations and mortality events corroborated this result: the probability of birds attending longliners increased 4% per each trawler leaving the longliner proximity and bird mortality increased tenfold when trawlers were not operating.  Therefore, the implementation of the landing obligation in EU waters will likely cause a substantial increase in bycatch rates in longliners, at least in the short-term, due to birds switching from trawlers to longliners.  Thus the implementation of the landing obligation must be carefully monitored and counterbalanced with an urgent implementation of bycatch mitigation measures in the longline fleet.”

 Scopolis Shearwater Pep Arcos

Scopoli's Shearwater at sea, photograph by 'Pep' Arcos


Andrea Soriano-Redondo ,Verónica Cortés, José Manuel Reyes-González, Santi Guallar, Juan Bécares, Beneharo Rodríguez, José Manuel Arcos &Jacob González-Solís, J. 2016.  Relative abundance and distribution of fisheries influence risk of seabird bycatch.  Scientific Reports DOI: 10.1038/srep37373.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 December 2016

Some go home, some stay: successes in establishing a new Short-tailed Albatross colony by translocating chicks

Tomohiro Deguchi (Division of Avian Conservation, Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, Abiko, Japan) and colleagues have published in the journal Animal Conservation on the results of a translocation exercise with Short-tailed Albatrosses Phoebastria albatrus.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Restoration or establishment of colonies using translocation and hand-rearing can be an effective tool for conserving birds.  However, well-designed post-release evaluation studies for long-lived species are rarely implemented.  We investigated the attendance and breeding attempts of hand-reared short-tailed albatross (STAL) Phoebastria albatrus chicks (n = 69) translocated to a historic breeding island in the Ogasawara Islands, 350 km from the source colony, for 8 consecutive years after the first translocation.  Thirty-nine percent of hand-reared birds (n = 27) returned to the translocation site at least once per breeding season, of which 67% (n = 18) also visited the natal island.  The number of hand-reared birds returning each year was lower at the translocation site (mean: 0.3–2.3 birds per day) versus the natal island (0.4–3.5 birds per day).  The first breeding attempt occurred 5 years after the first translocation.  Three pairs (producing three chicks) recruited to the translocation site or neighboring islands and five pairs (producing nine chicks) recruited to the natal island by 8 years after the first translocation.  Every hand-reared bird that raised a chick paired with a naturally reared bird. At the translocation site and neighboring islands, two hand-reared birds paired with a mate from the natal island and a breeding colony 1850 km away, respectively, while the parents of the third chick were unknown.  Their breeding at the translocation region was observed among conspecific social attractants (decoys, audio playback; one pair) or congeners (two pairs).  Our preliminary results suggest that even though more translocated and hand-reared albatrosses visited and recruited to their natal island compared to the translocation site, the early re-establishment of breeding by short-tailed albatrosses in the Ogasawara Islands 80 years after extirpation would not have occurred without the initial translocation effort.  Further study is needed, however, to fully understand formation of breeding colonies beyond conspecific attraction and philopatry.”

A  colour-banded Short-tailed Albatross translocated as a chick returns to Mukojima 

Read more about the translocation project in ACAP Latest News here.

With thanks to Tomohiro Deguchi.


Deguchi, T., Sato, F., Eda, M., Izumi, H., Suzuk , H., Suryan, R.M., Lance, E.W., Hasegawa, H. & Ozaki, K. 2016  Translocation and hand-rearing result in short-tailed albatrosses returning to breed in the Ogasawara Islands 80 years after extirpation.  Animal Conservation doi:10.1111/acv.12322.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 November 2016

Studying foraging of non-breeding Balearic Shearwaters by geolocation and stable isotopes

Rhiannon Meier (National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK,) and colleagues have published in the open-access journal Diversity and Distributions on the foraging behaviour of the Critically Endangered and ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Aim.  The movement patterns of marine top predators are likely to reflect responses to prey distributions, which themselves can be influenced by factors such as climate and fisheries.  The critically endangered Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus has shown a recent northwards shift in non-breeding distribution, tentatively linked to changing forage fish distribution and/or fisheries activity.  Here, we provide the first information on the foraging ecology of this species during the non-breeding period.

Location.  Breeding grounds in Mallorca, Spain, and non-breeding areas in the north-east Atlantic and western Mediterranean.

Methods.  Birdborne geolocation was used to identify non-breeding grounds.  Information on feather moult (from digital images) and stable isotopes (of both primary wing feathers and potential prey items) was combined to infer foraging behaviour during the non-breeding season.

Results.  Almost all breeding shearwaters (n = 32) migrated to non-breeding areas in the Atlantic from southern Iberia to the French Atlantic coast, where the majority of primary feather moult took place.  Birds foraging off western Iberia yielded feather isotope ratios consistent with a diet composed largely of pelagic fishes, while the isotopic composition of birds foraging in the Bay of Biscay suggested an additional contribution of benthic prey, most likely from demersal fishery discards.

Main conclusions.  Combined application of geolocators and stable isotopes indicates spatial variation in dietary behaviour and interactions with fisheries.  Our results imply that both pelagic fish and fisheries discards are important components of diet during the non-breeding period, which may have implications for the at-sea distribution of this migratory species.  These findings will contribute to bycatch mitigation in non-breeding areas and provide baseline data that should inform future assessment of seabird responses to changing fishery practices and prey distributions.”

Balearic Shearwater at sea

With thanks to Miguel McMinn for information.


Meier, R.E., Votier, S.C., Wynn, R.B., Guilford, T, McMinn Grivé, M., Rodríguez, A., Newton, J., Maurice, L., Chouvelon, T., Dessier, SA. & Trueman, C.N. 2016.  Tracking, feather moult and stable isotopes reveal foraging behaviour of a critically endangered seabird during the non-breeding season.  Diversity and Distributions 1-16.  DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12509.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 November 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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