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 University of Barcelona produces a documentary on seabird bycatch in the Mediterranean in Catalán and Spanish

The Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) and the Departament de Biologia Animal of the Universitat de Barcelona in Spain have recently posted a video documentary on seabird bycatch in the Mediterranean.  The 14-minute video entitled ‘Hams sense ocells’ appears in both Catalán and Spanish (Castellano) languages (click here).

The documentary, funded by the Fundacion Biodivesidad explains the problem of seabird bycatch along the Catalan coast and the need to adapt mitigation measures in the Mediterranean fishing fleet to reduce it.  Some mitigation trials have been funded by ACAP in its  last call for project funding (click here).

Click here for more information on the department’s programme on sea bird bycatch.

 

Yelkouan Shearwater at sea in the Mediterranean

With thanks to Jacob González-Solís for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 December 2014

The ACAP Secondment Programme calls for 2015 applications

The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) is an Intergovernmental Agreement that seeks to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for species listed under its Annex 1.  Applications are sought to undertake a secondment under the ACAP Secondment Programme.  The Agreement has established a secondment programme for the purpose of building capacity within its Parties and as a means of achieving tasks within the current work programmes of its Advisory Committee (see AC8 Doc 16 Rev 3) and Secretariat (see AC8 Doc 19 Rev 1).

Funding is available for travel and living costs associated with secondees undertaking a placement at the Agreement’s Secretariat in Hobart or at another organisation.  It is expected that the proposed secondment will meet the following criteria:

1. The work to be undertaken addresses a task identified in the Advisory Committee’s or Secretariat’s Work Programme, and/or is deemed to be of high importance to achievement of the Agreement’s objective.

2. The task proposed is international in nature e.g. the outcomes will be of relevance to more than one country.

3. The funds allocated will not be used for the purpose of paying salaries.  It is expected that the applicant’s institution will continue to pay the applicant’s salary.

4. The task to be undertaken has a capacity-building focus.

5. The funds allocated will be primarily used for travel, accommodation and per diem costs.

6. The applicant has received in-principle agreement from the Host Country to host this work.

Applicants are encouraged to contact the relevant Working Group Convenor, the Advisory Committee Chair, Vice-chair, or the Secretariat to discuss their proposal.  Completed Secondment Application Forms, available from the ACAP Home Page (www.acap.aq) in English, French and Spanish, should be submitted directly to the ACAP Secretariat.  It is desirable that applications are submitted in English in order to limit translation costs; however submissions in any other Agreement language will also be accepted.

 All applications should be forwarded to the Secretariat by close of business on Monday, 23 February 2015.

ACAP Secretariat, 09 December 2014

The symbolism of the albatross in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick

Albatrosses (but much more rarely petrels) have appeared in poetry, as featured in ACAP Latest News from time to time.  Leaving aside the scientific and conservation papers and reports regularly covered in ALN and also children’s books (click here), albatrosses have also appeared in fictional prose literature.

In Chapter 42 entitled “The Whiteness of the Whale” in Herman Melville’s 1851 Romantic novel Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, Ishmael, the book’s narrator, muses over the significance and symbolism of the colour white, alluding to that most famous poem featuring an albatross, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  Melville had gone to sea on a whaler for a year and a half as a “green hand” in 1840.  He most likely then encountered albatrosses when his ship rounded Cape Horn into the Pacific, giving him a personal experience (unlike Coleridge's) to influence his later writings.

According to one reviewer (click here): “Manifested perfectly in this chapter, Melville presents the purest of all symbols — the color white –, and transvalues it to represent the epitome of evil, fear, and malice.”  Read the extract below to gain your own opinion.

Herman Melville, 1819-1891

“Bethink thee of the albatross, whence come those clouds of spiritual wonderment and pale dread, in which that white phantom sails in all imaginations? Not Coleridge first threw that spell; but God's great, unflattering laureate, Nature.*

*I remember the first albatross I ever saw. It was during a prolonged gale, in waters hard upon the Antarctic seas.  From my forenoon watch below, I ascended to the overclouded deck; and there, dashed upon the main hatches, I saw a regal, feathery thing of unspotted whiteness, and with a hooked, Roman bill sublime.  At intervals, it arched forth its vast archangel wings, as if to embrace some holy ark.  Wondrous flutterings and throbbings shook it.  Though bodily unharmed, it uttered cries, as some king's ghost in supernatural distress.  Through its inexpressible, strange eyes, methought I peeped to secrets which took hold of God.  As Abraham before the angels, I bowed myself; the white thing was so white, its wings so wide, and in those for ever exiled waters, I had lost the miserable warping memories of traditions and of towns.  Long I gazed at that prodigy of plumage. I cannot tell, can only hint, the things that darted through me then.  But at last I awoke; and turning, asked a sailor what bird was this.  A goney, he replied.  Goney! never had heard that name before; is it conceivable that this glorious thing is utterly unknown to men ashore! never!  But some time after, I learned that goney was some seaman's name for albatross.  So that by no possibility could Coleridge's wild Rhyme have had aught to do with those mystical impressions which were mine, when I saw that bird upon our deck.  For neither had I then read the Rhyme, nor knew the bird to be an albatross.  Yet, in saying this, I do but indirectly burnish a little brighter the noble merit of the poem and the poet.

I assert, then, that in the wondrous bodily whiteness of the bird chiefly lurks the secret of the spell; a truth the more evinced in this, that by a solecism of terms there are birds called grey albatrosses; and these I have frequently seen, but never with such emotions as when I beheld the Antarctic fowl.

But how had the mystic thing been caught?  Whisper it not, and I will tell; with a treacherous hook and line, as the fowl floated on the sea.  At last the Captain made a postman of it; tying a lettered, leathern tally round its neck, with the ship's time and place; and then letting it escape.  But I doubt not, that leathern tally, meant for man, was taken off in Heaven, when the white fowl flew to join the wing-folding, the invoking, and adoring cherubim!”

With thanks to Mark Rauzon.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer. 10 December 2014

Does the Tropical Shearwater breed in Fiji?

7he BirdLife Pacific Partnership e-bulletin of 22 October reports on a Tropical Shearwater Puffinus bailloni seemingly downed by lights on Yaqaga Island, Vanua Levu, Fiji in the Pacific Ocean, the first time the species has been recorded on that island.  The species is not known to breed in Fiji.

 

Tropical Shearwater, photograph by Tim Stenton

“In July a newly-recognised seabird was found on Yaqaga Island, in the Bua Province on Vanua Levu.  The seabird, a Tropical Shearwater (Puffinus bailloni) was found hanging from a tree by a local villager.  It was the first time he had seen the bird and was clearly different from the other seabirds that he was used to seeing while fishing out at sea.  “We have been noticing the seabird for some time now right after some families had started setting up solar powered lights in their homes; it would be seen and heard flying across the village late into the evening; for almost two months until its fatal incident when it collided onto a tree branch” the local villager said.

Sialesi Rasalato BirdLife Pacific’s Technical Officer who identified the shearwater, said although, this species can be seen at sea throughout Fiji’s waters (and elsewhere in the Pacific) it is not known if it breeds in Fiji, currently the nearest known breeding colony is in Tonga.  People from the village the shearwater was found at reported that historically they knew of birds that lived in burrows on the island, but they had not been seen in recent years, Sia said.

Tropical Shearwaters occur in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  Previously considered a race of the Audubon Shearwater [P. lherminieri] they were recognised as a full species by BirdLife as recently as August this year!  They nest in small burrows and crevices on islands and while they are considered numerous particularly in the Phoenix and Line Islands (Kiribati) the species is likely in decline.  Like many of their petrel and shearwater relatives breeding sites are threatened by invasive alien species particularly rats and feral cats which are common throughout the Pacific islands.”

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 December 2014

An update on research on the ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater

The latest issue of the annual journal, Sea Swallow, published by the Royal Naval Birdwatching Society, carries an article on research conducted in the northern summer of 2014 on the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus.

The paper’s introduction follows:

“For the last eight years a dedicated team of UK scientists, conservationists and seabird enthusiasts have contributed to a programme of research and conservation focused on the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater and other migratory seabirds.  This programme has two main components: the ‘Sea Watch SW’ project, which involved collection of land- and boat-based data from UK waters between 2007 and 2011 (see www.seawatch-sw.org), and the ongoing ‘Project Shearwater’, which involves work at Balearic shearwater breeding colonies in the Mediterranean and tracking of the birds at sea throughout the year.  For an overview of 2013 Project Shearwater activities, and links to reports from earlier years, see http://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=3925.”

A Balaeric Shearwater carries a satellite tracker with its aerial visible

Photograph by Henri Weimerskirch

Reference:

Wynn, R. 2014.  Balearic Shearwater – Project Seawatch SW and Project Shearwater 2014 update.  Sea Swallow 63: 35-38.

[Note:  this publication is not as yet on-line]

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 December 2014