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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A bycatch study reveals Back-footed and Laysan Albatrosses ingest fish, squid - and plastics

 Black footed and Laysan Albatrosses Kure Atoll Conservancy

 Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, photograph from the Kure Atoll Conservancy

Sayaka Nakatsuka (Fisheries Resource Institute, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, Shizuoka, Japan) and colleagues have published in the Japanese journal Ornithological Science on stomach contents of Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis and Black-footed Albatross P. nigripes caught by pelagic longliners in the western North Pacific.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The stomach contents (food and ingested plastics) of Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis and Black-footed Albatross P. nigripes were examined by necropsy analysis of birds caught as bycatch in the pelagic longline fisheries in the Western North Pacific. The contents were classified separately for the proventriculus and gizzard. Undigested fish and cephalopods were found in the proventriculus, while hard objects such as cephalopod beaks, plastics, and pebbles were found in the gizzard. This indicates that the retention time of soft tissues in fish or cephalopods differs from that for hard objects. The main prey of both albatrosses consisted of mesopelagic cephalopods such as Cranchiidae, Gonatidae, Histioteuthidae, and Onychoteuthidae species. Laysan Albatrosses also foraged on small teleosts (Japanese Anchovy Engraulis japonicus and some Myctophidae fishes) as major prey items. The estimated dorsal mantle length of cephalopods preyed upon by the albatrosses was below 200 mm, which was smaller than the mature sizes of those cephalopods and the size class mainly preyed upon by cetaceans. This implies that the albatrosses may forage on immature cephalopods floating in the surface layer. Ingested plastics were found in 71.8% of Laysan and 31.8% of Black-footed Albatrosses and plastic fragments were the most abundant.”

Reference:

Nakatsuka, S., Ochi, D., Inoue, Y., Ohizumi, H., Niizuma, Y. & Minami, H, 2021.  The diet composition and ingested plastics of Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses incidentally captured by the pelagic longline fishery in the western North Pacific.  Ornithological Science 20: 29-140.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 August 2021

BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force releases its Annual Report for 2020/21

 Wandering Albatross Laurie Johnson April Grossruck

Wandering Albatross by April Grossruck for ACAP, from a photograph by Laurie Smaglick Johnson

 Rory Crawford, Bycatch Programme Manager, BirdLife International Marine Programme writes on the occasion of the release of BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force Annual Report for 2020/21:

“There’s not a lot to say about 2020 that hasn’t been said already. But in spite of it all, the Albatross Task Force has continued its course through some choppy seas and this is your annual dose of what we’ve been able to achieve!  In the attached annual progress report you can find out all about our project activities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Namibia and South Africa between April 2020-March 2021, a year like no other.”

“The big positive news of the past year was the publication of our paper demonstrating a 98% reduction in seabird bycatch in the Namibian demersal longline fishery since we were successful in pushing for regulations back in 2015.  Over 20,000 seabird lives have been saved each year as a consequence – a reminder of why we do what we do, and huge credit due to the team in Namibia for making the magic happen! The paper picked up lots of great press coverage, including in BBC Wildlife Magazine, the Guardian and on the BBC World Service [and in ACAP Latest News].

“The pandemic has, of course, presented many challenges, but the adaptive nature of our teams has meant that we’ve still be able to train over 400 fisheries observers (via outdoor or online events) and work with governments and industry to advance trials of electronic monitoring of bycatch.  Electronic monitoring is very much the future of ensuring that the collateral damage of fishing is properly understood and minimised, and the pandemic has accelerated efforts to test various systems – we’re either supporting or leading trials in Argentina, Chile and South Africa.

“None of this would be possible without the collaborative efforts between our in-country partners and stakeholders, the RSPB and BirdLife International – as well as funding from the RSPB membership, foundations and generous individual donations.  We are extremely thankful for the continued support we receive from you, without which we wouldn’t be able to keep up the fight to save the albatross.”

For regular updates follow @AlbyTaskForce on Twitter and read monthly updates on the ATF blog.  E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request the 15-page 2020/21 annual report.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 August 2021

Breeding success of Grey Petrels is reduced by mouse attacks on Marion Island

Coleen Laird Grey Petrel chick watercolour Michelle Risi Marion enhanced

Grey Petrel chick, watercolour by Coleen Laird for ACAP, after a photograph by Michelle Risi

Ben Dilley (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues published in 2018 in the journal Antarctic Science on introduced House Mice Mus musculus preying upon burrow-nesting petrels at sub-Antarctic Marion Island, including on chicks of the ACAP-listed and Near Threatened Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea.

 Fig3 Ben Dilley

A House Mouse approaches a Grey Petrel chick at its cave breeding site on Marion Island,
infrared video footage from the publication, photograph by Stefan Schoombie

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We report the breeding success of four species of burrow-nesting petrels at sub-Antarctic Marion Island where house mice Mus musculus are the sole introduced mammal. Feral cats Felis catus were present on Marion for four decades from 1949, killing millions of seabirds and greatly reducing petrel populations. Cats were eradicated by 1991, but petrel populations have shown only marginal recoveries. We hypothesize that mice are suppressing their recovery through depredation of petrel eggs and chicks. Breeding success for winter breeders (grey petrels Procellaria cinerea (34±21%) and great-winged petrels Pterodroma macroptera (52±7%)) were lower than for summer breeders (blue petrels Halobaena caerulea (61±6%) and white-chinned petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis (59±6%)) and among winter breeders most chick fatalities were of small chicks up to 14 days old. We assessed the extent of mouse predation by monitoring the inside of 55 burrow chambers with video surveillance cameras (4024 film days from 2012–16) and recorded fatal attacks on grey (3/18 nests filmed, 17%) and great-winged petrel chicks (1/19, 5%). Our results show that burrow-nesting petrels are at risk from mouse predation, providing further motivation for the eradication of mice from Marion Island.”

With thanks to Ben Dilley and Janine Dunlop, Niven Library, University of Cape Town.

Reference:

Dilley, B.J., Schoombie, S., Stevens, K., Davies, D., Perold, V., Osborne, A., Schoombie, J., Brink, C.W., Carpenter-Kling, T. & Ryan, P.G. 2018.  Mouse predation affects breeding success of burrow-nesting petrels at sub-Antarctic Marion Island.  Antarctic Science  30: 93-104.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 August 2021

Featuring ACAP-listed species and their photographers: the Laysan Albatross by Hob Osterlund

LAALSnuggleSweet2

A Laysan Albatross pair on Kauai

Author and photographer Hob Osterlund is a resident of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the founder of the Kauai Albatross Network and a Fellow of the Safina Center.  She is also a valued supporter of the Albatross and Petrel Agreement, assiduously helping ACAP Latest News with her photographs and information on interesting stories to post.  Fitting then for Hob and her compelling photos of globally Near Threatened Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis to be the second in a new occasional series that features photographs of the 31 ACAP-listed species, along with information on their photographers.

 Hob Osterlund

Hob Osterlund with some of her photographic subjects

Hob Osterlund writes to ACAP Latest News:

“Many years ago when I was a student at Cal-Berkeley, I declared an individual major called “Ecological Geography.” My focus allowed me to take a wide range of courses, including topics related to wildlife biology and ornithology.  For my senior thesis I spent a summer backpacking in the Sierra Nevada range in California, specifically at a place called Mineral King.  At the time the Disney folks were hoping to build a ski resort there, so my topic was describing the negative impact on wildlife such a resort would have.  Entirely unrelated to my thesis, the resort was never built [the site now falls within the Sequoia National Park].  But that summer inspired my activism, my commitment and my photography.  My devotion to the craft grew deeper in the late 1970s when I happened upon a few Laysan Albatrosses (Mōlī) on the north shore of Kauaʻi.  At the time I had no idea they had only recently attempted nesting on the island after perhaps a thousand years’ absence.

LAALKK1WeekOld

A Laysan Albatross guards its week-old downy chick

“As it happens, I am a sixth-generation resident of Hawaiʻi.  Back in the mid-20th century, Martha Warren Beckwith, my grandmother’s cousin, wrote a (still-in-print) book called Hawaiian Mythology.  It was in that volume that I learned about the Hawaiian concept of ʻaumakua, which can be interpreted as meaning an ancestor who appears in the form of an animal; an ancestor who protects and warns and advises.  Such was the kind of connection I felt to the Mōlī here, I began volunteering at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, and at one point the inestimable Beth Flint, PhD, lead a two-day course on how to band Mōlī.  The USFWS concept was to have a small team of volunteers who could monitor albatross nesting on private lands.  One morning when we were in the field, Beth suggested I start a volunteer organization for Mōlī advocacy.  Ever obedient to Beth’s wisdom, I founded the Kauai Albatross Network not long after that.  I already knew some private landowners with mōlī on their properties, so I started there."At that time I was working as a Clinical Nurse Specialist/ Nurse Manager at The Queenʻs Medical Center in Honolulu, and ran a Pain and Palliative Care Department.  One of my passions in that role was to translate the language of science into a language non-medical people could understand.  That passion followed me into albatross advocacy, so I started using social media to share tidbits of the birds’ stories.  And of course, the better the photo, the better the story.  In 2013 I contacted Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and in 2014 we launched the “TrossCam” which ended up live streaming the lives of several albatross chicks from hatch to fledge for five seasons.  During that time I also wrote Holy Mōlī: Albatross and Other Ancestors (Oregon State University Press, 2016, 4th printing, [read ACAP Latest News’ review]), and was able to include more than 20 of my photos.  From there I made a brief foray into filmmaking, and Kalamaʻs Journey was the result, winning a Telly Award in 2018.

LAALChickTalks

A conversation is occuring ...

"What’s next?  I was asked by Friends of Kīlauea Wildlife Refuges to put together a book called Birds of Kilauea Point.  The book was essentially complete in 2020 when COVID-19 hit, and publication will be delayed until we can find a new publisher.  In the meantime, what brings me back to photography every day is the detail I can see through my lens that I cannot see with my naked eye.  Many bird behaviours happen quickly.  When I’m shooting a few frames per second, my brain cannot comprehend all that is going on.  When I look at the images later, it’s very common for me to be surprised by something funny, illustrative or glorious.  I take photos because I love doing it, and because I want to share what I discover.”

LAALChickSoaked

A Laysan Albatross chick gets soaked by rain

LAALChickStarsMouth

A Laysan Albatross chick about to be fed

For more information produced by ACAP on the Laysan Albatross download a detailed Species Assessment and an illustrated Species Summary.

First in this series is the globally Critically Endangered Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata by Ken Logan.

With thanks to Hob Osterlund.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 August 2021

A seabirding excursion photographs a satellite-tracked Black-browed Albatross off Cape Town

Tracked BBA Estelle Smalberger shrunk

Satellite-tracked juvenile Black-browed Albatross off Cape Town, South Africa; photograph by Estelle Smalberger

In April 2021, 19 satellite tags were attached to Black-browed Albatross Thalassarchre melanophris chicks prior to their departure from Bird Island in the South Atlantic by the British Antarctic Survey’s Black-browed Albatross Juvenile Tracking project.  The fledged birds are being tracked in near real-time using the Argos system with maps showing that the majority then travelled to the continental shelf and close inshore waters of southern Africa.  The project explains that the main aims of the tracking study are to map the birds’ distribution to determine their overlap with fisheries and the main environmental drivers of their movements, and to assess their survival rate in the critical months after fledging. The project aims to run to February 2022.

 Tracked Black browed Albatrosses

 Tracks of the satellite-tagged Black-browed Albatrosses from Bird Island as at 07 August 2021

That one of these 19 birds has now been photographed at sea some three months after fledging is totally unexpected.  The story follows with Trevor Hardaker of the pelagic tour company Zest for Birds reporting to the Pelagic birding in Cape Town with Zest for Birds  Facebook page of photographing a juvenile Black-browed Albatross wearing a back-mounted satellite tracker off Cape Town, South Africa.

Trevor writes: “Some fantastic feedback received from James Crymble, the Zoological Field Assistant for the Black-browed Albatross Juvenile Tracking project, about the bird with the satellite tracker on it that we saw on our pelagic trip last Saturday, 31 July 2021.  James says: “Astronomical odds. This has caused quite a stir here on Bird Island.  Based on the info you provided (I sent him the date, time and GPS position that we recorded the bird at), the most likely candidate is Argos ID 205662.  Device was deployed on 23/04/2021 with the chick fledging on 02/05/2021. Has travelled 10,474 km as of today (06 August 2021)!”  Trevor continues: “How awesome is that news…?!  That bird only fledged from the nest 96 days ago and it has already travelled 10 474km!! That’s an average of just over 109 km that it has travelled every single day since it left the nest!!  It’s no small wonder that we all love these incredible ocean wanderers so much!”

Read more in ACAP Latest News about the project.

With thanks to Trevor Hardaker and Estelle Smalberger.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 August 2021