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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Releasing rehabilitated albatrosses and petrels: avoiding the pathogen problem

As reported from time to time in ACAP Latest News sick and injured albatrosses and petrels taken under care to wildlife rehabilitation centres are released at sea or from the shore if they are deemed to have recovered sufficiently.  ACAP-listed species known to have been released in this way include both species of giant petrels Macronectes spp. and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Thalassarche chlororhynchos, White-capped T. steadi, Wandering Diomedea exulans and Antipodean D. antipodensis Albatrosses.  Countries which have released rehabilitated albatrosses and petrels include Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as the United Kingdom’s Tristan da Cunha.

A young Northern Giant Petrel under care in New Zealand

Such releases run a risk of introducing novel diseases and pathogens to the species’ wild populations, especially if the rehabilitated birds are released at or near their breeding sites.

To reduce this risk the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) in 1996 adopted Recommendation XXIV-3 (see below) that urges against the reintroduction of rehabilitated indigenous animals to sub-Antarctic islands and to the Antarctic Continent.  However, such reintroductions apply only to the SCAR area of interest* and do not affect the release of rehabilitated albatrosses and petrels north of the SCAR region as defined.  Such releases carry the implicit assumption that only healthy and disease-free individuals are likely to make it back home.

Recommendation XXIV-3

Concerning re-introduction of indigenous species

Noting that well-meaning attempts have been made to rehabilitate indigenous seals and seabirds, especially penguins, that have been held in captivity, to sub-Antarctic islands and to the Antarctic continent;

Noting further that such re-introductions serve no useful conservation purpose and run the risk of introducing pathogens;

SCAR, therefore, urges National Committees to discourage such practices.

*SCAR’s area of interest includes Antarctica, its offshore islands, and the surrounding Southern Ocean including the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the northern boundary of which is the Subantarctic Front.  Subantarctic islands that lie north of the Subantarctic Front and yet fall into SCAR's area of interest include: Ile Amsterdam, Ile St Paul, Macquarie Island and Gough Island.

Selected Literature:

Healy, M. 2007.  Care of giant-petrels from rehabilitation to release.  National Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference Proceedings 2007, Fremantle, Australia.  4 pp.

Vanstreels, R.E.T., Saviolli, J.Y., Ruoppolo, V., Hurtado, R., Adornes, A.C., Canabarro, P.L., Pinho, R., Filho, S. & Serafini, P.P. 2014.  Diretrizes Para a Reabilitação de Albatrozes e Petréls.  12 pp.

SCAR 1997.  SCAR XIV Recommendations.  Polar Record 33 (185): 175-178.

Releasing rehabilitated albatrosses and petrels: avoiding the pathogen problem

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 September 2014

A Short-tailed Albatross gets hooked in USA waters

The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) last week reported the incidental take of a Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus in the hook-and-line groundfish fishery of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Management Area (BSAI) off Alaska on 7 September (click here).  A second as yet unidentified albatross was taken on the same haul.  The Short-tailed Albatross was banded, identifying it as a five-year old bird from the breeding colony on Torishima, Japan.

The last three documented takes of Short-tailed Albatrosses in Alaskan waters were in August 2010, September 2010 and October 2011.  The Short-tailed Albatross is protected in Alaskan waters by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

 Short-tailed Albatrosses in Alaskan waters, photograph by Rob Suryan


Ten Short-tailed Albatrosses taken by Alaskan groundfish fisheries since 1987 (red stars), with the latest bird marked by a green star

“As a result of consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the ESA, USFWS issued an incidental take statement of four birds during each two-year period for the BSAI and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) hook-and-line groundfish fisheries.  In instances where the amount or extent of incidental take is exceeded, reinitiation [sic] of formal ESA consultation is required.  This is the first take in the two-year period that began on September 16, 2013.  To date, the incidental take levels have not been reached during the current or any previous Biological Opinions.”

Information on mitigation measures required in the fishery can be found on the Seabird Avoidance Gear and Methods webpage.

With thanks to Beth Flint for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 September 2014

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.


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