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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Phylogenetic dependence in multi-species mark–recapture studies of albatrosses and petrels

Fitsum Abadi (Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Montpellier, France) and colleagues write in the journal Ecological Modelling on phylogenetic dependence in mark–recapture studies of seven species of southern albatrosses and nine species of petrels, including the ACAP-listed Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Species in comparative demography studies often have a common phylogenetic or evolutionary ancestry and hence, they cannot fully be treated as independent samples in the statistical analysis.  Although the serious implication of ignoring phylogeny has long been recognized, no attempt has been made so far to account for the lack of statistical independence due to phylogeny in multi-species mark–recapture comparative demography studies.  In this paper, we propose a Bayesian hierarchical model that explicitly accounts for phylogenetic dependence among species, and to correct for imperfect detection, which is a common phenomenon in free-ranging species.  We illustrate the method using individual mark–recapture data collected from 16 seabird species of the order Procellariiformes.  Data on body mass and phylogeny of these species are compiled from literature.  We investigate the relationship between adult survival and body mass with and without accounting for phylogeny.  If we ignore phylogeny, we obtain a positive survival–body mass relationship.  However, this relationship is no longer statistically significant once phylogenetic dependence is taken into account, implying that survival may actually depend on an unmeasured variable that is correlated with body mass due to a shared dependence on phylogeny.  The proposed model allows the integration of multi-species mark–recapture data and phylogenetic information, and it is therefore a valuable tool in ecological and evolutionary biology.”

Grey Petrel, photograph by Peter Ryan


Abadi, F., Barbraud, C., Besson, D., Bried, J., Crochet, P.-A., Delord, K., Forcada, J., Grosbois, V., Phillips, R.A., Sagar, P., Thompson, P., Waugh, S., Weimerskirch, H., Wood, A.G. & Gimenez, O. 2014.  Importance of accounting for phylogenetic dependence in multi-species mark–recapture studies.  Ecological Modelling 273: 236-241.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 July 2014

Spain’s new Marine Protected Areas considered good for ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwaters

Spain has established 39 new marine protected areas as Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs) under the European Birds Directive (click here).

“The SPAs will offer protection to seabirds whilst they are at sea, complementing the existing network of sites on land.  Spain, with its Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines and islands, is extremely important for European seabirds.   This includes Europe’s most threatened seabird –Balearic Shearwater [Puffinus mauretanicus], and other species endemic to the Mediterranean, such as the Yelkouan Shearwater [P. yelkouan] and Audouin’s Gull [Larus audouinii].”

Balearic Shearwater, photograph by Daniel Oro

“Previously, Spain’s network of protected sites for seabirds was made up mostly of small sites at colonies and along coasts and islands.  These sites mostly protect seabirds whilst on land, but do not protect them in the environment where they spend the majority of their time: out at sea.  These new sites, many of which are large in size, and include areas offshore, will add an additional 50 000 km² to Spain’s protected area network for birds, a … 20-fold increase."

Click here for similar news of 30 new marine protected areas in United Kingdom waters.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 July 2014

Increasing in the west, stable in the east; differing fortunes of Black-footed Albatrosses in the North Pacific suggest gene flow

Haruko Ando (Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Japan) and colleagues have published in the journal Pacific Science on possible gene flow caused by dispersal between populations of the Black-Footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The Black-Footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) breeds in two remote regions, approximately 4,000 km apart, in the North Pacific.  The population in the central North Pacific region (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands), which contains >95% of the total population, is currently stable, although concerns exist about future declines.  In contrast, the population in the western North Pacific (Izu and Ogasawara Islands in Japan) is rapidly increasing, and the breeding areas are expanding.  To estimate possible gene flow caused by dispersal between populations, we performed genetic analysis on six colonies of Black-Footed Albatross using 10 microsatellite markers.  The central and western North Pacific populations were genetically differentiated.  However, an estimation of migrants per generation indicated directional dispersal from the western to the central North Pacific.  In particular, the population on Kure Atoll, the westernmost atoll in the Hawaiian Islands in the central North Pacific, exhibited weak genetic differentiation from the western North Pacific populations, suggesting frequent immigration from the western North Pacific.  The recent expansion of the western North Pacific population may be due to an increase in returning individuals, which may be caused by increased breeding success rates and/or survival rates.  Range-wide and long-term monitoring of the Black-Footed Albatross population using genetic markers may help to uncover dispersal dynamics of this highly mobile but philopatric albatross species and to make appropriate conservation decisions in light of environmental changes.”

Black-footed Albatross, photograph by James Lloyd


Ando, H., Young, L., Naughton, M., Suzuki, H., Deguchi, T. & Isagi, Y. 2014.  Predominance of unbalanced gene flow from western to central North Pacific colonies of the Black-Footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes).  Pacific Science 68: 309-319.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 July 2014

ACAP-listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters continue to be under threat in new Red Data List

BirdLife International has this week released its taxonomic review of the World’s non-passerine birds, including seabirds, on behalf of the World Conservation Union’s Red Data List (click here). This gives an opportunity to assess the current conservation status of the 30 ACAP-listed species.

All of the World’s 22 species of albatrosses remain threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable) or Near Threatened in the new listing; none is categorized as Least Concern (click here).

Waved Albatross: still Critically Endangered, photograph by Kate Huyveart

A similar situation exists for the five species of Procellaria Petrels with four categorized as Vulnerable and only one, the Grey Petrel P. cinerea, being accorded the status of Near Threatened (although recategorization as Vulnerable has been proposed for this species).  In contrast, the two giant petrels Macronectes spp., remain as Least Concern.  The 30th ACAP-listed species, the Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, continues to be Critically Endangered (click here).

Two species of shearwaters that have been proposed for ACAP listing retain their threatened status: the Pink-footed Shearwater P. creatopus of Chile (Vulnerable) and the Yelkouan Shearwater P. yelkouan of the Mediterranean (Vulnerable).

The 2014  listing includes some “new” species of seabirds due to taxonomic splitting, such as the Desertas Petrel Pterodroma deserta of the Macaronesian Island of Bugio, coming in as Vulnerable.  However, other newly-described or recognized species, such as Bryan’s Shearwater Puffinus bryani and the Pincoya Storm Petrel Oceanites pincoyae have not as yet been included on BirdLife’s RDB list.


Bryan's Shearwater does appear on the IUCN official list (2014.2) as Critically Endangered (click here). The Pincoya Petrel appears as Data Deficient (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 July 2014

Woman power: Namibia acts to reduce seabird mortality by its longliners and trawlers

A number of ACAP-listed albatross and petrel species visits Namibian waters in the south-east Atlantic, including the Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena from Gough Island (click here).

Tristan Albatross, photograph by Katrine Herian

These visitors are at risk to Namibian trawl and longline fisheries as recently reported by BirdLife International’s Albatross Task Force: “[i]n Namibian waters alone, more than 30,000 seabirds are drowned every year due to long-line and trawl fishing, making these fisheries some of the most destructive in the world (click here).

BirdLife also reports that the problem is now being addressed by the voluntary use of bird-scaring (tori) lines.  These lines are being constructed by a group of five women in Walvis Bay, known as Meme Itumbapo, bringing needed employment.


Twin bird-scaring lines deployed behind a southern African trawler

Photograph by Barry Watkins

“A total of 13 trawlers (about 15% of the trawl fleet in Namibia) have [sic] now purchased tori lines for voluntary use on their vessels, as well as 3 demersal long-line vessels (about 25% of the fleet).  Steel weights that keep hooks out of the reach of albatrosses - funded by a Lucile and Packard Foundation project - are now in production for the longline fleet.”

Namibia drafted a National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (NPOA-Seabirds) following Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) guidelines (IPOA-Seabirds) over the period 2003-2007 but it has, as yet, not been formally adopted.

Namibia is not a Party to the Albatross and Petrel Agreement but has sent observers to its meetings in the past.

Click here for a related story in ACAP Latest News on Namibian use of bird-scaring lines.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 July 2014