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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Surviving in New Zealand: should the Flesh-footed Shearwater have a threatened status?

Christophe Barbraud (Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Villiers-en-Bois, France) and colleagues have published in the open-access journal Marine Ornithology on survivorship in Flesh-footed Shearwaters Puffinus carneipes in New Zealand.  The species, identified as a potential candidate for ACAP listing (click here), is currently categorized globally as of Least Concern.  However, the authors argue that its conservation status should be reassessed “urgently”.

The paper’s abstract follows:

The Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes is a widespread sub-tropical species, breeding on Southern Hemisphere islands managed by New Zealand, Australia and France.  Recent concern over the population’s stability and frequently noted bycatch in longline fisheries has prompted a review of its conservation status.   Studies of nesting shearwaters at two sites presented here provide detail of survivorship rates for two populations, studied over 13 and 23 years, respectively, in northern New Zealand sites.  Adult survival (0.93–0.94) is moderate to high compared with survival of congeners.  Population growth rates estimated from marked individuals indicate stability for one site and decline at the other site.  Average age of first return of banded chicks was 6.2 years of age in one study and 6.4 years in the other. Current threats affecting survivorship for the New Zealand populations of this species are reviewed.”

Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Tim Reid

Click here to access a recently published paper on the conservation status of the Flesh-footed Shearwater in Australia.

Reference:

Barbraud, C., Booth, A., Taylor, G.A. & Waugh, S.M. 2014.  Survivorship in Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes at two sites in northern New Zealand.  Marine Ornithology 42: 91-97.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 October 2014

Female-female Laysan Albatross pairs fledge chicks from fostered eggs

Lindsay Young (Pacific Rim Conservation, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA) and colleagues have published online in the open-access journal Marine Ornithology on the results of translocating and fostering eggs of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis are large seabirds that breed primarily in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  In the 1960s, they began colonizing new sites across the Pacific, including the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kaua’i.  Albatross were first recorded at PMRF in 1967, were breeding by 1977 and by 2012 had a colony of 84 nesting pairs.  In 1988, a bird-aircraft strike hazard reduction program was begun in which adults were hazed and eggs were destroyed.  In 2005, a foster parent program was initiated in which inviable eggs from Laysan Albatross pairs on Kaua’i’s North Shore were replaced with viable eggs from PMRF.  From 2009 to 2012, we placed 105 eggs from PMRF in foster nests.  Hatching success of foster eggs (39%) was low because most foster eggs (71%) were placed with female-female pairs, which are known to have low hatching success compared with male-female pairs (32% vs. 63%).  Fledging success of foster nests (93%) was high, but overall reproductive success of foster nests (36%) was lower than average for this species because of the low hatching rate.  This project contributed to the conservation of Laysan Albatrosses by producing 37 additional young for the Kaua’i population and provided valuable insights into incubation, breeding performance and fostering methods.  Additional foster pairs should be sought, and sites on other islands should be identified where excess eggs from PMRF could be used to create new colonies by hand-rearing chicks.”

A Laysan Albatross receives its fostered egg, photograph by Lindsay Young

Reference:

Young, L.C., Vanderwerf, E.A., Granholm, C., Osterlund, H., Steutermann, K. & Savre, T. 2014.  Breeding performance of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis in a foster parent program.  Marine Ornithology 42: 99-103.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 October 2014

The USA gets its second predator-proof fence to protect albatrosses and shearwaters on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i

The Kaua‘i National Wildlife Refuge Complex on the USA’s Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i is comprised of the Hanalei, Hulē‘ia and Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuges.  This month as part of the USA’s National Wildlife Refuge Week the refuge complex is celebrating the completion of Kaua‘i’s first predator-proof fence on the slopes of Nīhoku (Crater Hill) within the complex following a ground-breaking ceremony in June.

Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project site

The fence with a mesh skirt and a rolled hood is the second of its type to be erected in Hawaii.  The first Hawaiian predator-proof fence successfully protects ACAP-listed Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus pacificus at Kaena Point on the island of Oahu (click here).  The 725-m fence on Kaua‘i has been designed to keep out introduced mammalian predators such as cats, dogs, mongoose, rats and mice from a 3.1-ha enclosure to protect Laysan Albatrosses which currently breed within it as well as other breeding birds and native plants.  The absence of predators (once removed) will make the site suitable for translocations of the Hawaiian-endemic and Endangered Newell’s Shearwater P. newelli.

The Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985; in 1988 it was expanded to include Nihoku and Mōkōlea Point.

Partners for the Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project include the American Bird Conservancy, the Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (a Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife/Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit project), Pacific Rim Conservation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Read more about the Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project and the positive outcome of its environmental assessment.  See also http://www.fws.gov/pacific/news/news.cfm?id=2144375292.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 October 2014

 

Population status and threats to Flesh-footed Shearwaters in South and Western Australia

Jenn Lavers (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia) has published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science on Flesh-footed Shearwaters Puffinus carneipes in South and Western Australia.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Seabirds are considered reliable indicators of the marine environment due to their reliance on ocean-based resources and position at the top of the marine foodweb.  The status of the world’s bird populations have deteriorated over the past 20 years with seabirds declining faster than any other bird group.  For some seabird species, a lack of data or synthesis of available data limits our ability to detect changes in population trends and gain insight into the condition of the surrounding marine environment.  The Flesh-footed Shearwater (FFSH; Puffinus carneipes) exemplifies this with demographic and count data either absent or outdated for most breeding islands.   Results of a survey of 20 FFSH breeding islands in South and Western Australia during 2011–2014, and a synthesis of all available data indicate the current global population is substantially smaller than previously thought, comprising no more than 74 000 breeding pairs. While much of the reduction in numbers is due to outdated burrow counts which are shown to be a poor measure of population size in this species, there is evidence of a decline in numbers on at least six islands that account for ~ 40% of the world’s population.  A review of novel and existing data on FFSH breeding habits (burrow occupancy and density), concurrent threats, and population size in South and Western Australia are presented here along with priorities for management of this declining marine predator.”

 

Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Barry Baker

With thanks to Barry Baker.

Reference:

Lavers, J.L. 2014.  Population status and threats to Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) in South and Western Australia.  ICES Journal of Marine Science doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsu164. (+ supplementary data).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 October 2014

International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas progresses seabird bycatch mitigation at a meeting in Portugal

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) held an intersessional meeting of its Sub-Committee on Ecosystems last month in Olhão, Portugal.  The Albatross and Petrel Agreement was represented by the Convenor of its Seabird Bycatch Working Group, Anton Wolfaardt.

At the meeting progress was achieved in discussing the review process for the commission’s seabird bycatch mitigation measure (Rec 11-09 Supplemental Recommendation by ICCAT on Reducing Incidental By-Catch of Seabirds in ICCAT Longline Fisheries) as described in its report.

The meeting considered a paper prepared and presented by an ACAP intersessional group identifying the elements that should be incorporated into a review of ICCAT’s current seabird conservation measures. These elements include the extent to which ICCAT’s seabird conservation and management measures reflect best practice for pelagic longline fisheries and has appropriate spatial, temporal and vessel application; the availability and quality of the data available for a review; the degree of implementation by vessels (compliance); and the analysis and monitoring of seabird by-catch levels over time, most likely including reported by-catch rates (birds per 1000 hooks) and the total number of birds killed per tuna RFMO per year.

It was agreed that because Rec 11-09 came fully into force in July 2013 it would be premature to conduct the full assessessment in 2015. However, the Sub-Committee highlighted the importance of initiating work in preparation for the review.  The key elements to be progressed in 2015 include:

• Review the extent to which the by-catch mitigation requirements in Rec 11-09 reflect current best practice for pelagic longline fisheries, and the spatial, temporal and vessel applicability of Rec 11-09;

• Request and review new data on seabird by-catch rates;

• Develop indicators for monitoring Rec 11-09 over time; and

• Update the EFFDIS [Fisheries effort and distribution] database.

The Sub-Committee recognized the trans-oceanic habitat of some seabird species. This necessitates the evaluation of mitigation effects across ocean basins and through collaboration with other tRFMOs, such as the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), which plans to hold a workshop in November 2014 to develop review methods.

Submitted Papers:

ACAP Intersessional Group (C. Small, A. Wolfaardt, G. Tuck, I. Debski, W. Papworth, Mi Ae Kim)  2014.  Preliminary identification of minimum elements to review the effectiveness of seabird bycatch mitigation regulations in tuna RFMOs.  SCRS/2014/121.

Reid, T.A., Wanless, R.M., Hilton, G.M., Phillips, R.A. & Ryan, P.G. 2014.  Foraging range and habitat associations of non-breeding Tristan albatrosses: overlap with fisheries and implications for conservation.  SCRS/2014/122. (Published in 2013 as Endangered Species Research 22: 39-49).

With thanks to Anton Wolfaardt.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 October 2014