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 Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve gets larger: good for its albatrosses and petrels

The Australian Government has announced the expansion of the sub-Antarctic Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve in the southern Indian Ocean by 6200 km², to 71 200 km² (click here).

Heard Island's central Big Ben and Mawson Peak

Photograph by Barbara Weinecke

 A view of McDonald Island, photograph by Phil Moors

“Located 4,100 kilometres south-west of Perth, Heard Island and the McDonald Islands are home to truly unique flora and fauna that survive in a dynamic natural environment dominated by volcanic activity and glaciers.  The original Reserve was declared in October 2002.

The Reserve’s boundaries were amended via Proclamation, with the Governor-General signing the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Heard Island and McDonald Islands) Proclamation 2014 on 25 March 2014.  The Australian Government’s decision to expand the Reserve follows a comprehensive scientific assessment of the region’s conservation values and extensive consultation with key stakeholders.  This scientific assessment recommended that 6,200 square kilometres of ocean should be added to the Reserve on the basis that its waters are of high conservation value.  These high conservation value waters possess outstanding and representative ecosystems, distinct benthic habitats and species, and foraging grounds for seabirds and mammals.

One of the most biologically pristine areas in the world, Heard Island and the McDonald Islands were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in December 1997 on the basis of their outstanding natural universal values.

Now possessing an area of 71,200 square kilometres, the Reserve is Australia’s largest IUCN 1a Strict Nature Reserve.  IUCN Category 1a Strict Nature Reserves are designated to protect habitats, ecosystems and native species in an as undisturbed state as possible.  Public access is primarily limited to scientific research and environmental monitoring.  It is the highest level of protection afforded under the IUCN principles.  The protection of these high conservation value waters within an IUCN Category 1a Strict Nature Reserve demonstrates the Australian Government’s commitment to the sustainable management of our great ocean resources.

The Reserve also includes the Commonwealth’s only active volcano. Rising 2745 metres above sea level, Mawson Peak is also the highest point outside of the Australian Antarctic Territory.  Sporadic volcanic activity has been observed on Mawson Peak since 2012.”

View a map of the marine reserve showing its extensions here.

Selected Literature:

Australian Antarctic Division 2005.  Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve Management Plan.  Kingston: Australian Antarctic Division.  198 pp.

Green, K & Woehler, E.J. (Eds) 2006.  Heard Island Southern Ocean Sentinel.  Chipping Norton: Surrey Beatty & Sons.  270 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 April 2014

Wandering Albatrosses to keep a daily diary: South African marine ornithologists sail south for Marion Island today with loggers in their luggage

Once more it is time for the annual relief of the meteorological station at Marion Island in the southern Indian Ocean.  South Africa’s new Antarctic supply and research ship, the S.A. Agulhas II, will depart from Cape Town harbour at 14h00 today and is expected to arrive off the island on 6 April – when offloading by helicopter will commence.

The meteorological/research station on Marion Island above Transvaal Cove, with Junior's Kop and the central snow-covered peaks behind

Photograph courtesy of Marion Island Killer Whales

Among the scientific teams aboard is an experienced one from the University of Cape Town’s FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, led by its newly-appointed Director, Peter Ryan.  Accompanying him is Maëlle Connan, who has already spent a year conducting seabird research on the island.

During the three-week relief period ashore “daily diary” loggers will be attached to up to five breeding Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans to study their nocturnal feeding behaviour.  The loggers (which can record “14 parameters at infra-second frequencies”) will be attached with Tesa tape to the birds’ tail feathers early in the relief, with the aim of recovering them before the end of the relief as they return to feed their downy chicks after single foraging trips.

 Wandering Albatross and chick at Marion Island, photograph by John Cooper

Two field assistants completing the “Fitztitute’s” team, Alexis Osbourne and Vonica Perrold, will remain on the island for a full year, undertaking continued monitoring of long-term study colonies of the four species of albatrosses and the Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli – where all the breeding birds are colour-banded.

As in recent years ACAP’s Information Officer is accompanying the annual relief, so expect some stories on ACAP-listed species from the field over the rest of the month.  The relief expedition is due to return to Cape Town on 8 May.

With thanks to Peter Ryan for information.

Selected Literature:

Wilson, R.P., Shepard, E.L.C. & Liebsch, N. 2008.  Prying into the intimate details of animal lives: use of a daily diary on animals.  Endangered Species Research 4: 123-137.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 April 2014

Foraging and nest quality in Cory's Shearwater

Antje Chiu Werner (Departamento de Ornitología, Museo de Historia Natural “Javier Prado,” Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru) and colleagues have published in the ornithological journal Auk on differences in the at-sea foraging behaviour of male and female Cory's Shearwater Calonectris borealis in relation to nest quality.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“An extended reproductive period and high variability in food resource availability at sea make good quality nest sites particularly important for the survival of pelagic seabird chicks.  Despite high philopatry during the early pre-laying period, males compete strongly for nests, making this period a unique opportunity to independently assess the influence of nest-site characteristics and individual quality on the foraging behavior of Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea borealis) individuals.  We found significant differences in the at-sea foraging behavior of males and females at temporal (trip duration) and spatial (foraging areas, trip distance, and trip sinuosity) scales, both of which are greater in females.  Furthermore, we suggest that nests of higher quality are deeper and closer to the nest of a conspecific neighbor because both variables were associated with males foraging closer to the colony.  Finally, we showed that during the early pre-laying period the influence exerted by nests on males' behavior at sea is independent from the individual's quality.  Our study links nest-site features with the at-sea behavior of pelagic male seabirds during a period of nest competition and suggests that nest-site characteristics are important to explain foraging patterns of central-place foraging birds.”

 A pair of Corys's Shearwaters, photograph by Paulo Catry


Chiu Werner, A., Paiva, V.H. & Ramos, J.A. 2014.  On the “real estate market”: individual quality and the foraging ecology of male Cory's Shearwaters.  Auk 131:  265-274.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 May 2014

Work-shopping a national plan to reduce the impacts of commercial fisheries on seabirds in the USA

Kim Rivera (NOAA National Seabird Program, Juneau, Alaska, USA) and colleagues have recently co-authored a report of a workshop held in 2009 in Seattle, Washington, USA to produce a national plan to improve the state of knowledge and reduce commercial fisheries impacts on seabirds.

The primary goal of this workshop was to initiate the development of a National Seabird Implementation Plan.  Four themes were discussed in break-out groups:

Pelagic seabird abundance and distribution and overlap with fisheries;

Anthropogenic impacts (e.g. bycatch/entanglement/habitat alteration) and mitigation;

Management and coordination within and between agencies and with stakeholders on shared objectives; and

Ecosystem approach to management—seabirds as indicators of marine health (i.e. sentinel species).

Themes emerging from the workshop include continuing to work on seabird bycatch issues, improving connections, networks and educational outreach, and using seabirds as indicators to improve management.

Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses at sea: at risk to fisheries

With thanks to Kim Rivera for information.


Rivera K.S., LT. Ballance, L.T., Benaka, L., Breuer, E.R., Brooke, S.G., Fitzgerald, S.N., Hoffman, P.L., LeBoeuf, N. & Waring, G.T. 2014.  Report of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s National Seabird Workshop: Building a National Plan to Improve the State of Knowledge and Reduce Commercial Fisheries Impacts on Seabirds.  September 9–11, 2009, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Seattle, WANOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-F/SPO-139.  78 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 April 2014

UPDATED Progress with National Plans of Action – Seabirds: how many are there around the World?

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 FAO encourages all its member countries to implement their own National Plans of Action (NPOA-Seabirds).

In terms of the IPOA-Seabirds, countries should 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.

The following 14 States and other entities have completed their NPOA-Seabirds or broadly equivalent documents, given along with the year of original adoption, or of the latest updated version.  In some cases trawl fisheries are included or are covered by separate documents.

Of these entities seven are Parties to the Albatross and Petrel Agreement.

Argentina (2010)

Australia (2006) (Threat Abatement Plan 2006 for the Incidental Catch (or Bycatch) of Seabirds during Oceanic Longline Fishing Operations)

Brazil (2004)

Canada English French (2007) Progress Report Rapport d'étape (2012)

Chile (2007)

European Union (2012)

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* Longline (2011*) Trawl (2009*)

Japan (2009)

New Zealand (2013*, includes trawl and other fisheries)

South Africa (2008)

South Georgia (Isla Georgias del Sur)* (2008 assessment)

Chinese Taipei (2008?)

United States (2006)


*Updated/revised versions.

View NPOA-Seabirds listed on the FAO website here.


With thanks to Ken Morgan for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 31 March 2014, updated 03 April 2014

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.