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.

Contact the ACAP Information Officer if you wish to have your news featured.

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New Zealand holds a Seabird of the Year competition: will an ACAP-listed species win?

A New Zealand NGO, Forest & Bird, is holding a competition to choose the country’s most popular seabird.  “Vote for your favourite New Zealand seabird.  Our seabirds are sensational and New Zealand is a seabird superpower.  More than one-third of the world’s seabird species spend at least part of their lives above or on New Zealand waters.  Thirty-six of those only breed here.  But tragically more than half of those are threatened with extinction.”

At the time of writing votes have been posted for 31 New Zealand seabirds, of which seven species are albatrosses and petrels listed by ACAP.

The most popular ACAP-listed species in the competition is currently the Vulnerable Salvin’s Albatross Thalassarche salvini which is being championed by its Campaign Manager Igor Debski (Marine Species and Threats, Department of Conservation and New Zealand delegate at recent ACAP meetings).  His campaign states “classified as nationally critical, Salvin’s albatross are one of our most at risk seabirds from bycatch in New Zealand fisheries.  The largest colony is found on Proclamation Island in the Bounty Islands of New Zealand”

Igor writes to ACAP that his colleague Katherine Clements has written a sonnet in support of his campaign – and encourages ACAP Latest News readers to vote for “his” bird.

 

Thousands of seabirds roam the skies,
To far off shores they all do flock,
But only one seabird can claim the prize,
The elegant Salvin’s mollymawk.

You truly should hope to come across,
A bird of such beauty and unwavering might,
Though not the largest of the albatross,
Its wings span two and a half metres in flight!

You may have thought you travelled heaps,
But the Salvin’s journey quite far,
From New Zealand to Chile they bravely sweeps,
Spanning the sea, y el mar!

So endorse the wondrous bird of the sky,
And VOTE Thalassarche salvini!

The competition does have a serious side:  Forest & Birds works to conserve New Zealand’s seabirds, including those ACAP-listed species affected by fishery practices, through its Save our Seabirds campaign.  The Seabird of the Year competition gives voters the opportunity to donate towards Forest & Bird’s work with seabirds.

Voting closes on the 24th of November.  ALN will report on the winning species once the competition is over.  So far the competition is being led by the Fairy Tern Sternula nereis, New Zealand’s rarest breeding seabird.

With thanks to Igor Debski for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 November 2014

The Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project gets formally assessed as a “great result”

The Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP) eradicated three introduced mammals on Australia’s sub-Antarctic island: European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, Black Rat Rattus rattus and House Mouse Mus musculus following a poison-bait drop and hunting with dogs for the few remaining rabbits.  The successful project has now been evaluated and has been officially scored as a “great result”.

Although, as has been previously reported in ACAP Latest News, MIPEP resulted in not inconsiderable non-target mortality of birds from both primary and secondary poisoning, notably of ACAP-listed Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli, the evaluation report considers that their numbers are likely to recover within a few decades.  On the plus side the island’s breeding population of ACAP-listed Grey Petrels Procellaria cinerea continues to increase in the absence of introduced mammals.

A Grey Petrel chick in its burrow on Macquarie Island

In concluding the evaluation report calls for continued monitoring of recovery of Macquarie’s landscape (affected by peat slips), vegetation and seabirds and for improved protection via a new biosecurity plan.

“Overall, the project has come in one year ahead of schedule and around 20% under budget.”  Cannot complain about that!

Where to next in the sub-Antarctic?  New Zealand’s Antipodes, the United Kingdom’s Gough and South Africa’s Marion are all islands with a single terrestrial alien mammal – the House Mouse…

With thanks to Keith Springer for information.

Reference:

Parks and Wildlife Service 2014.   Evaluation Report August 2014 Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project.  Hobart: Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.  50 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 November 2014

Modelling the Prince Edward Islands: home of nine species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels

Leigh Gurney (Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada) and colleagues have published in the journal Ecological Modelling on constructing an ecosystem model for South Africa’s Marion and Prince Edward Islands.  The paper’s appendices contain biological details of the islands’ nine regularly breeding species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“A model of an ecosystem provides a useful tool for the exploration of management options to achieve desired objectives.  With the move to a more holistic approach to marine resource management, ecosystem models and the indicators that can be derived using them, are providing a means to move away from single species management and allow for the ecosystem effects of population dynamics to be explored.  This work describes the construction of an ecosystem model of the Prince Edward archipelago.  The archipelago consists of two islands, Marion and Prince Edward, which are situated southeast of the southern tip of Africa at 46°46′S, 37°51′E.  The islands are host to millions of seabirds and seals that use the islands as a refuge for breeding and moulting.  Using the Ecopath software, the ecosystem is described across three separate decades (1960s, 1980s, 2000s).  All trophic links are described based on the rich published literature that exists for the islands.  Local survey data for population estimates and trophic linkages were sourced for defining and quantifying the food web.  The system is summarised into 37 functional groups which include 4 primary producer groups at the lower trophic spectrum, and 14 land based top predator groups (seals and seabirds) representing the majority of the higher trophic levels.  Two detrital groups are included.  The food web is compared across the three time periods with transfer efficiencies declining for the higher trophic levels through time, suggesting a decline in energetic coupling between groups.  Comparison of the PEI ecosystem with eight other modeled sub Antarctic/Antarctic systems showed the ecosystem size (as measured in total biomass throughput per year, year−1) to be lower than all other systems and was found to be most similar to the Kerguelen Islands for the ecological metrics assessed.  Future research priorities are highlighted based on an assessment of data availability, data gaps and sensitivity testing.  The construction of this model provides a much needed tool for the advancement of management for the archipelago, which have both fisheries and conservation concerns.”

Wandering Albatrosses at Marion Island, photograph by Marienne de Villiers

Reference:

Gurney, L.J., Pakhomov, E.A. & Christensen, V. 2014.  An ecosystem model of the Prince Edward Island archipelago.  Ecological Modelling 294: 117-136.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 November 2014

A pledge to help the Black Petrel gets signed in New Zealand

The ACAP-listed and Vulnerable Black Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni is restricted as a breeding species to Little Barrier and Great Barrier Islands in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf.  The species is at risk to land-based predators (on Great Barrier) and to fishery interactions at sea.

Black Petrel at sea, photograph by Biz Bell

New Zealand’s Black Petrel Working Group has now come together to pledge its support for the species (click here).  The group, with members drawn from fishing and conservation bodies and communities, met at the end of last month to sign a pledge with commitments that range from “continuous improvement in seabird smart fishing practices to supporting research to better understand the status and trend of the remaining black petrel population.”

The pledge’s text follows:

“Every year the black petrel (tāiko) returns to our shores after a heroic journey that spans thousands of kilometres across the Pacific Ocean.  These seabirds come home for summer, to the only place in the world where they are known to breed, on Great Barrier and Little Barrier Islands.

Once their breeding colonies were found through the North Island and parts of the South Island, and black petrels numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  Introduced predators have eliminated all of the mainland colonies and today there are only around 2700 breeding pairs remaining.  In New Zealand fishing activity is the main risk to the species nowadays.

We think the black petrel deserves to thrive and we’re taking action to make that happen.

Who are we? We’re the Black Petrel Working Group, a group of concerned fishers, environmental groups, government agencies, as well as local body, and iwi organisations. This is our pledge to take a stand and help black petrels regain lost ground.

Starting this summer, we pledge to:

• Expand the use of seabird smart fishing practices to avoid harming black petrels across all fishers in the Hauraki area (known as the fishing area FMA 1).

• Look for ongoing ways to improve how to avoid catching black petrels while fishing.

• Assist with the deployment of electronic monitoring and cameras on fishing vessels to prove our methods are in place and working.

• Support research into black petrel biology to better understand the status and trend of the remaining populations.

These commitments are part of a plan, to be backed up by measurable targets and milestones which we will report on yearly, when the breeding season ends and the black petrels depart our shores.

We know there’s a lot of work ahead, but with our collaborative approach we can share not only the workload but our collective expertise, learnings and most of all, our passion for the birds.

Many commercial fishers in the Hauraki Gulf already have seabird smart practices in place and we’re keen to bring everyone else on board too, including recreational fishers who enjoy the Gulf alongside the black petrel.

So we’re asking everyone to take a stand, to join the pledge and be seabird smart on the water, starting this summer.”

Click here and here (with a video clip) for media reports on the working group’s pledge.

What other ACAP-listed species might benefit from this approach?

John Cooper, AbCAP Information Officer, 02 November 2014

Artificial lights down Scopoli’s Shearwater fledglings in Malta

BirdLife Malta has reported 17 cases of young Scopoli’s Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea stranded inland due to the effects of light pollution in the past two weeks (click here).

“Insensitive lighting from coastal development misleads these birds inland, often ending with these birds grounded and unable to make it back to the sea.  Light pollution is one of the main threats for Malta’s shearwaters, not only causing these strandings but also the abandonment of entire colonies in the past.”

Rescued Scopoli's Shearwaters downed by light pollution in Malta last month, later successfully released

Photographs by Ben Metzger and Joe Sultana

Malta’s population of Scopoli’s Shearwaters has been estimated at around 4500 pairs, equivalent to an estimated 5% of the Mediterranean breeding population.  According to BirdLife Malta the main threats to the species in Malta are development close to the colonies, disturbance and persecution by humans, light and sound pollution and fisheries bycatch.

A number of other shearwater species are affected deleteriously by artificial lighting when fledging.  These include Yelkouan Puffinus yelkouan in Malta (click here), Newell’s P. newelli and Wedge-tailed P. pacificus in the Hawaiian Islands, Short-tailed P. tenuirostris in Australia, Townsend´s Shearwater P. auricularis on Mexico’s Socorro Island and Cory’s C. borealis in the Azores and Canary Islands.  Gadfly Pterodroma spp. and other burrowing procellariiform species are also affected at inhabited localities.

Selected Literature:

Gaston, K.J., Davies, T.W., Bennie, J. & Hopkins, J. 2012.  Review: reducing the ecological consequences of night-time light pollution: options and developments.  Journal of Animal Ecology 49: 1256-1266.

Raine, H., Borg, J.J., Raine, A., Bairner, S. & Borg Cardona, M. 2007.  Light pollution and its effect on Yelkouan Shearwaters in Malta; causes and solutions.  BirdLife Malta  54 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 November 2014