Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Looking after its endemic albatrosses and petrels: Tristan da Cunha gets an updated Biodiversity Action Plan

The Tristan group of islands forms part of the United Kingdom’s Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.  The four islands of Tristan, Gough, Inaccessible and Nightingale support three endemic ACAP-listed species: Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, Endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos and Vulnerable Spectacled Petrel Procellaria conspicillata.  Three other ACAP-listed species also breed: Endangered Sooty Albatross Phoebetria fusca, Near Threatened Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea and Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus (Least Concern).

Tristan Albatross with a downy chick, photograph by Andrea Angel and Ross Wanless

The Tristan Conservation Department has recently published on-line an updated biodiversity action plan for the period 2012 to 2106, replacing an earlier version.  The biodiversity plan has as its vision to “enable the people of Tristan da Cunha, in partnership with organisations from around the world and particularly in the UK and South Africa, to conserve their globally important and unique biodiversity for the benefit of current and future generations”.

The Plan has the following main objectives:

1. Conservation is integrated into all Government programmes, policies and plans (both those of Tristan Government and those of the UK that affect Tristan),

2. Support for biodiversity conservation is strengthened on Tristan,

3. Tristanians have the capacity to manage biodiversity effectively,

4. The impact of invasive alien species is reduced or eliminated,

5. The sustainable use and management of the marine environment is enhanced, and

6. The knowledge of Tristan’s key habitats and species is increased.

Important goals among the many of the plan include eradicating Gough’s “killer” House Mice Mus musculus that attack Tristan Albatross chicks, monitoring the six ACAP-listed species, and improving biosecurity procedures for all the islands in the group.

A Tristan Albatross chick is attacked by House Mice at night, photograph by Ross Wanless

This Tristan da Cunha Biodiversity Action Plan (2012‐2016) has been updated as part of the project ‘Integrated Biodiversity Management Planning on Tristan da Cunha’, funded by the UK Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP).  The work is carried out in collaboration between the Tristan Conservation Department, the Tristan Government and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Click here to access other on-line conservation documents for the Tristan islands.

Reference:

Tristan da Cunha Government & RSPB 2012 [2014].  Biodiversity Action Plan for the Tristan da Cunha Islands (2012‐2016).  Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha, South Atlantic: Tristan Conservation Department.  77 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 September 2014

ACAP's meetings in Uruguay in pictures

ACAP has been meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay last and this week.  Here are some of the crowd. 

Attendees at the ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group meeting face up for the camera

South American delegates, Andres Domingo, Augusto Silva-Costa, Tatiana Neves, Fabiano Peppes, Rodrigo Forselledo, Sebastian Jimenez, Rodrigo Sant'Ana and Andre Santoro show a collective leg 

Projeto Albatroz's car from Brazil waits patiently outside the hotel

Working Group Convenors, Anton Wolfaardt and Richard Phillips ignore the breakfast croissants and cheese board as they discuss the day's work

Paul Sagar (New Zealand), Jonathan Barrington (Australia) and Richard Phillips (United Kingdom) smile for the camera 

Azwianewi Makhado (South Africa) and John Cooper (ACAP Secretariat) watch the sun rise on a morning run at Punta del Este's "Hand in the Sand"

Dr. Daniel Gilardoni, Head of the Dirección Nacional de Recursos Acuáticos (National Aquatic Resources Directory) and Andres Domingo from Uruguay, Marco Favero, Advisory Committee Chair and Warren Papworth, Executive Secretary after the Advisory Committee opening ceremony

Photographs by John Cooper, Fabiano Peppes and Johan de Goede.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 September 2014

ACAP meeting attendees brave the weather to watch giant petrels at sea in Uruguay

Over the weekend between meetings of ACAP’s working groups and Advisory Committee being held this month in Punta el Este, Uruguay, three brave north-hemisphere attendees went to sea after ACAP-listed seabirds in damp and misty weather.

José Manuel “Pep” Arcos (Spain), Beth Flint and Mi Ae Kim (both USA) went out for a few hours last Saturday on the tourist vessel Sea Warrior towards the offshore Isla de Lobos nature reserve (part of the Coastal Islands National Park) about eight kilometres south-east of Punta del Este where South American Sea Lions Otaria flavescens were observed.

In the vicinity of the island good views – and photographs – were obtained of both species of giant petrels Macronectes spp., but unfortunately no albatrosses were seen.

 

The Sea Warrior in the harbour at Punta del Este

 

A juvenile Southern Giant Petrel flies by

 

Northern Giant Petrel in the water

Photographs by Pep Arcos

Mi Ae Kim, Pep Arcos and Beth Flint smile for the camera aboard the Sea Warrior

Photograph by Jordi Prieto

Southern Giant Petrels M. giganteus breed on the United Kingdom’s Gough Island and on a few Argentinian islands (such as Isla Gran Robredo) in the South Atlantic but Northern Giant Petrels M. halli in Uruguayan waters would have to have come from islands in the Southern Ocean farther south.

With thanks to Pep Arcos and Jordi Prieto for the photographs and all three participants for information on their trip.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 September 2014

The USA publishes a progress report on the implementation of its National Plan of Action – Seabirds

ACAP's Seabird Bycatch Working Group was informed at its meeting last week in Uruguay that the United States had published earlier this year a report on the implementation of its National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (NPOA-Seabirds).

The report highlights advancements made by the United States toward the objectives of the 2001 U.S. NPOA-Seabirds.  Since 2001, the United States has improved research, outreach, education and domestic management of seabird bycatch, resulting in a significant decrease in seabird bycatch in its domestic fisheries.

The report’s Executive Summary follows:

“Implementation of the United States National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries highlights advancements made by the United States toward the objectives of the 2001 U.S. National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (NPOA-Seabirds).  Since 2001, the United States has improved research, outreach and education on, and domestic management of incidental seabird catch, resulting in a significant decrease in seabird incidental catch in its domestic fisheries.

Interagency collaboration has been a large part of U.S. success in reducing the incidental catch of seabirds.  Three different agencies – the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of State – play roles in implementing the NPOA-Seabirds by seeking to reduce incidental catch through policy development and research, as well as a variety of domestic and international measures. These agencies have made great efforts to coordinate research and action on seabird incidental catch mitigation. Management measures taken by the United States include the introduction of comprehensive regulations for avoiding the incidental catch of seabirds in a number of domestic fisheries.  Such regulations have resulted in a halving of or even tenfold decrease in incidental catch numbers in certain fisheries.  Additionally, the United States actively supports the adoption of seabird management measures in international forums, and is pursuing accession of the Agreement to on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).  Finally, the United States has implemented a number of outreach and educational tools to combat seabird bycatch by developing easy reference guides and manuals for fishermen and fisheries observers.

Despite the strides it has made in reducing incidental seabird catch in longline fisheries, the United States recognizes that there are further steps and initiatives it can take.  Among these include the recognition that while incidental catch may have decreased in longline fisheries, it is still an issue in gillnet and trawl fisheries. In addition to further research and interagency collaboration, the United States will strive to emphasize the importance of seabird populations in ecosystem-based management systems and continue to promote global seabird conservation through the adoption of international measures.”

Laysan Albatross and chick on Midway Atoll, photograph by Pete Leary

Selected Literature:

National Marine Fisheries Service 2001.  Final United States National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries.  Silver Spring: National Marine Fisheries Service.  126 pp.

NOAA Fisheries 2014.  Implementation of the U.S. National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries 2014.  [Silver Spring]: NOAA Fisheries  20 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 September 2014

Gough Island reckoned the highest priority for the eradication of its alien House Mice among United Kingdom’s overseas islands by a comparative review

Jeffrey Dawson (RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy, United Kingdom) and colleagues have published in the journal Conservation Biology on prioritizing islands in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories for the eradication of invasive vertebrates.  Gough Island (World Heritage home of the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena attacked by introduced House Mice Mus musculus) scores as the highest priority of over 2000 islands in 11 separate territories.

Three other islands supporting ACAP-listed species fall within the top 25 prioritized islands for alien vertebrate eradications: the main island of Tristan da Cunha (6th), South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* (11th) and New Island, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* (16th).

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Invasive alien species are one of the primary threats to native biodiversity on islands worldwide.  Consequently, eradicating invasive species from islands has become a mainstream conservation practice.  Deciding which islands have the highest priority for eradication is of strategic importance to allocate limited resources to achieve maximum conservation benefit.  Previous island prioritizations focused either on a narrow set of native species or on a small geographic area.  We devised a prioritization approach that incorporates all threatened native terrestrial vertebrates and all invasive terrestrial vertebrates occurring on 11 U.K. overseas territories, which comprise over 2000 islands ranging from the sub-Antarctic to the tropics.  Our approach includes eradication feasibility and distinguishes between the potential and realistic conservation value of an eradication, which reflects the benefit that would accrue following eradication of either all invasive species or only those species for which eradication techniques currently exist.  We identified the top 25 priority islands for invasive species eradication that together would benefit extant populations of 155 native species including 45 globally threatened species.  The 5 most valuable islands included the 2 World Heritage islands Gough (South Atlantic) and Henderson (South Pacific) that feature unique seabird colonies, and Anegada, Little Cayman, and Guana Island in the Caribbean that feature a unique reptile fauna.  This prioritization can be rapidly repeated if new information or techniques become available, and the approach could be replicated elsewhere in the world.”

A female Tristan Albatross on its Gough nest, photograph by John Cooper

Reference:

Dawson, J., Oppel, S., Cuthbert, R.J., Holmes, N., Bird, J.P., Butchart, S.H.M., Spatz, D.R. & Tershy, B. 2014.  Prioritizing islands for the eradication of invasive vertebrates in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories.  Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12347.

Click here and here for two popular articles on the published paper.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 September 2014