ACAP Latest News

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 Salvin’s Albatross population decreases by a third over 14 years

Paul Sagar (National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research,  Christchurch, New Zealand) and colleagues have published in the journal Notornis on a decline in a population of the globally Vulnerable Salvin’s Albatross Thalassarche salvini at New Zealand’s Bounty Islands.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"We used data from 3 sources to examine the population size and trend of Salvin’s albatrosses (Thalassarche salvini) breeding on Proclamation Island, Bounty Islands, New Zealand.  Island-wide counts of breeding birds during incubation resulted in totals that declined 14%, from 3065 in 1997 to 2634 in 2004.  A count of breeding albatrosses over part of the island in 2011 indicated a further decline of 13% between 2004 and 2011, and an overall decline of 30% between 1997 and 2011.  Additional counts on part of Depot Island indicated a decline of 10% in the numbers of breeding pairs between 2004 and 2011.  Daily observations of 70 nests showed that hatching spanned the period from 5 to 21 November 1997, with a median of 15 November, apart from 5 eggs that had not yet hatched by the end of the study period.  Based on the banding and recapture of chicks banded in March 1985 annual survival was estimated at 0.926.  The scale of the decline estimated in this population has resulted in the conservation status of Salvin’s albatross being upgraded from nationally vulnerable to nationally critical."


Salvin's Albatross, photograph by Paul Sagar


Sagar, P.M., Amey, J., Scofield, R.P. & Robertson, C.J.R. 2015.  Population trends, timing of breeding and survival of Salvin's albatrosses (Thalassarche salvini) at Proclamation Island, Bounty Islands, New Zealand. Notornis 62:21-29.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 April 2015

ACAP Breeding Sites No. 79. Sandy Cay and the World’s largest colony of Southern Giant Petrels

The locality in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* with the greatest number of breeding ACAP-listed Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus is Sandy Cay in the Elephant Cays group off the south-west coast of East Falkland.  A total of 10 936 breeding pairs was counted on aerial photographs taken on 08 December 2004 and 7474 chicks on photos taken on 14 January 2005, giving an estimated breeding success of 68%.  The entire colony, the World’s largest for the species, was in one area and was relatively compact.  Breeding of about 1000 pairs of Southern Giant Petrels in the Elephant Cays was recorded in 1986/87, with “hundreds” prior to the 1960s.

Aerial view of the Southern Giant Petrel colony on Sandy Cay, photograph from Reid & Huin [2005] 

Views of Sandy Cay showing tussock and beaches, photographs by  Ken Passmore

Sandy Cay is an 84-ha island with a 4-km coastline largely surrounded by kelp beds.  It is low-lying, flat-topped and roughly oval-shaped, made up of dense and ungrazed Tussac Grass Parodiochloa flabellata, grass meadows and boulder and sandy beaches and dunes, with three fresh-water bodies.  The single giant petrel colony is situated in the north of a 700-m long sandy beach in the north-east of the cay.

The Southern Giant Petrel breeing colony on Sandy Cay, photographs by Ken Passmore

The island is privately owned and operated as a wildlife sanctuary or nature reserve with landings very rarely allowed.  It forms part of BirdLife International’s Important Bird Area for the Elephant Cays (FK05).  Sandy Cay has been stocked with cattle in the past, but now appears to have no introduced mammals, including rodents, based on a ground visit on 28 April 2010.  The collection of giant petrel eggs for human consumption by visiting vessels in the first half of the 20th Century has been reported, suggesting the colony is one of long standing.

With thanks to Ken Passmore, Sally Poncet, Tim Reid and Anton Wolfaardt for information and photographs.

Selected Literature:

[Falklands Conservation] 2006.  Important Bird Areas of the Falkland Islands.  London: Falklands Conservation.  160 pp.

Passmore, K. & Poncet, S. 2010.  Assessment of the Presence of Rodents and Baseline Surveys on Elephant Cays, Stinker Island, Penn Island, Third Island and Fourth Island.  [Stanley]: Beaver Island LandCare.  54 pp.

Patterson, D.L., Woehler, E.J., Croxall, J.P., Cooper, J., Poncet, S., Peter, H.-U., Hunter, S. & Fraser, M.W. 2008.  Breeding distribution and population status of the Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli and Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus.  Marine Ornithology 36: 115-124 and appendix.

Reid, T. & Huin, N. [2005].  Census of the Southern Giant-Petrel Population of the Falkland Islands 2004/2005.  [Stanley]: Falklands Conservation.  26 pp.

Reid, T. & Huin, N. 2008.  Census of the Southern Giant Petrel population of the Falkland Islands 2004/2005.  Bird Conservation International 18: 118-128.

Wolfaardt, A.[C.], Rendell, N. & Brickle, P. 2010.  Falkland Islands Implementation Plan for the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP): Review of Current Work and a Prioritised Work Programme for the Future.  Stanley: Falkland Islands Government.  57 pp.

Woods, R.W & Woods, A, 1997.  Atlas of the Breeding Birds of the Falkland Islands. Oswestry; Anthony Nelson.  190 pp.

Woods, R., Ingham, R. & Brown, A. 2006.  Falkland Islands.  In: Sanders, S. (Ed.).  Important Bird Areas in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories.  Sandy: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.  pp. 99-162.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer 22 April 2015

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

Half a kilometre may not be enough: how far can rats swim to reach islands deemed suitable for the reintroduction of burrowing petrels?

Michael Tabak (Program in Ecology, Department of Zoology & Physiology, University of Wyoming, Laramie,USA) and colleagues have looked at the distribution of Brown or Norway Rats Rattus norvegicus in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*, publishing open access in the online journal NeoBiotaThe finding that rats are likely to be able to swim farther than previously thought has implications for judging the suitability of islands cleared of rats for the reintroduction or translocation of burrowing shearwaters and petrels.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Non-native rats (Rattus spp.) threaten native island species worldwide.  Efforts to eradicate them from islands have increased in frequency and become more ambitious in recent years. However, the long-term success of some eradication efforts has been compromised by the ability of rats, particularly Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) which are good swimmers, to recolonize islands following eradications.  In the Falkland Islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, the distance of 250 m between islands (once suggested as the minimum separation distance for an effective barrier to recolonization) has shown to be in­sufficient.  Norway rats are present on about half of the 503 islands in the Falklands.  Bird diversity is lower on islands with rats and two vulnerable passerine species, Troglodytes cobbi (the only endemic Falkland Islands passerine) and Cinclodes antarcticus, have greatly reduced abundances and/or are absent on islands with rats.  We used logistic regression models to investigate the potential factors that may determine the presence of Norway rats on 158 islands in the Falkland Islands.  Our models included island area, distance to the nearest rat-infested island, island location, and the history of island use by humans as driving vari­ables.  Models best supported by data included only distance to the nearest potential source of rats and island area, but the relative magnitude of the effect of distance and area on the presence of rats varied depending on whether islands were in the eastern or western sector of the archipelago.  The human use of an island was not a significant parameter in any models.  A very large fraction (72%) of islands within 500 m of the nearest potential rat source had rats, but 97% of islands farther than 1,000 m away from potential rat sources were free of rats.”


Pycroft's Petrel: being translocated in New Zealand

Click here for a related paper on rodents in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.


Tabak, M.A., Poncet S., Passfield, K, Carling M.D. & Martinez del Rio C 2014.  The relationship between distance and genetic similarity among invasive rat populations in the Falkland Islands.  Conservation Genetics 16: 125-135.

Tabak, M.A., Poncet, S., Passfield, K. & Martinez del Rio, C. 2015.  Modeling the distribution of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) on offshore islands in the Falkland Islands.  NeoBiota 24: 33-48.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 April 2015

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

Where are the fish? Utilizing shearwaters as predictors off California

Shannon Lyday (Hawaii Pacific University, Oceanic Institute, Waimanalo, Hawaii, USA.) and colleagues write in a special issue of the Journal of Marine Systems entitled “California Current System – Predators and the Preyscape on shearwaters (including the ACAP-candidate Pink-footed Puffinus creatopus) as indicators of fish abundance.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Shearwaters are ideal for monitoring ocean conditions in the California Current because these predators are abundant, conspicuous, and responsive to oceanographic variability.  Herein we evaluated black-vented (Puffinus opisthomelas), Buller's (P. bulleri), flesh-footed (P. carneipes), pink-footed (P. creatopus), short-tailed (P. tenuirostris), and sooty (P. griseus) shearwaters as fishery-independent indicators of predatory or prey fish availability.  We analyzed four years (1996, 2001, 2005, 2008) of monthly (August–November) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seabird surveys, and United States Geological Survey Pacific Coast Fisheries Database catch, from the California coast to 200 nm offshore.  An ordination of shearwater abundance and fish catch revealed that the shearwaters and 11 fish/squid species were significantly correlated with one or more of three principal components, which explained 86% of the variation and revealed distinct species assemblages.  We evaluated multiple linear regression models for 19 fisheries using five shearwater metrics: density, aggregation, and behavior (traveling, stationary, feeding), three oceanographic indices, and latitude.  Eight of these models had a shearwater metric as the primary predictor.  In particular, feeding black-vented shearwater abundance explained 75% of dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) longline catch.  This research illustrates the utility of shearwaters as ecosystem indicators, with direct application for predicting fishery catch of commercial importance.”

Sooty Shearwater, photograph by John Graham 


Lyday, S.E., Ballance, L.T., Field, D.B. & Hyrenbach, K.D. 2015.  Shearwaters as ecosystem indicators: towards fishery-independent metrics of fish abundance in the California Current.  Journal of Marine Systems 146: 109-120.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 April 2015

Reducing bycatch of seabirds, turtles and marine mammals in gill nets: workshop report available

A workshop held earlier this year by the American Bird Conservancy and BirdLife International in the USA discussed methods of reducing non-target bycatch in gill nets.  “The main objectives of the workshop were to identify possible gillnet bycatch reduction methods that could be effective across taxonomic groups (seabirds, sea turtles, and sea mammals) and produce specific projects and plans for testing those methods.”

Shearwaters, like this Short-tailed, are at risk to drowning in gill nets, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

The report’s Executive Summary follows:

“The focus of the workshop was on technical methods of bycatch reduction of sea turtles, seabirds, and sea mammals in gillnets.  The workshop was carried out 21-23 January 2015 with 35 participants from seven countries and 17 organizations, representing collective expertise from fishermen, academia, government employees, and conservation Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).  The workshop objectives were to identify proposed gillnet bycatch mitigation methods, develop plans for trialing those methods, estimate the costs of trials, and identify teams who would work to carry out the trials.  The workshop began with a series of presentations to provide background for the discussions to follow.   This included presentations on where gillnet bycatch is known to occur; on the factors that influence bycatch probability; on the sensory abilities of the bycatch species to detect various potential mitigation methods; and on the results of previous workshops on gillnet bycatch reduction. Presentations also described bycatch reduction methods now being trialed, and gave a case study of successful technical mitigation for seabirds in the US Pacific Northwest.  Workshop subgroups proposed bycatch reduction methods that can be placed into two categories:

  • Active methods, including net lights and pingers in various configurations.
  • Passive methods, such as high-contrast panels placed within nets, streamers, or colored nets or portions of nets.

To encourage industry support for such measures, a key aspect of all proposed methods was that they should maintain the level of target catch, to the extent possible, while reducing bycatch.  Based on the proposed mitigation methods, workshop subgroups proposed a set of trial projects. For each project or set of projects, a region was identified where the project could be carried out, ensuring:

  • Adequate bycatch levels to detect the efficacy of mitigation measures.
  • The necessary infrastructure and partners present to carry out trials.
  • Representation across the taxa groups.
  • Good prospects of financial support for the project.

Key actors and leaders were identified for each project.  The proposed projects fell into five regional groupings:

  • North Pacific: With a focus on seabird bycatch (particularly alcids) in salmon driftnets, trials of net striping, pingers, high-visibility sections, and dropped headlines were proposed. A specific North Pacific salmon driftnet workshop was suggested, to examine common approaches to bycatch mitigation.
  • Northwest Atlantic: The workshop proposed trials of net lights, double-weighted lead lines, colored nets, and high-visibility sections in Newfoundland gillnet fisheries, where there are already strong connections between fishermen, academics, NGOs and management authorities.  The focus here would be on seabirds, porpoises, and pinnipeds. Sea turtle-focused projects testing low-profile nets were proposed off the US east coast.
  • Northeast Atlantic: The group recommended trials of net lights and high-visibility panels placed in nets on the south coast of England to look at effects on cetaceans and proposed trials of the same methods in the Baltic Sea, focusing on sea duck bycatch (ongoing work by BirdLife International (BLI) in Lithuania, potentially some new work in Latvia or Germany).
  • South America: In Chile, where seabird (penguins and shearwaters in particular), sea turtle, and cetacean bycatch is of particular concern, the group proposed the continuation of a project on high-visibility net panels being led by the Albatross Task Force (ATF).  In Peru, the continuation of mitigation projects testing net lights and subsurface nets for reduction of bycatch of sea turtles, seabirds, and sea mammals, led by ProDelphinus working with various partners, was proposed. The workshop groups noted that southern Brazil is an important to place to link with existing projects and partners to improve understanding of the visual capacities of target and bycatch species. In addition, a laboratory project on seabird underwater hearing capacity was proposed, but not at a specific site.  The tests would need to be carried out at a research facility with access to captive live birds and large seawater tanks, such as the US Geological Surveys (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Maryland, USA) or one of the large aquariums.  The crucial next steps following the workshop are to push forward the proposed projects, seeking financing and support of various partners and stakeholder groups.  In addition, it is clearly necessary to gain a deeper understanding of how marine mammals, seabirds, and sea turtles interact with gillnets.  Although this can be difficult because of the nature of the fisheries, it will be crucial in informing the design of mitigation measures. Participants agreed that information sharing on best practice and lessons learned across projects is [are] very important, something the workshop organizers will seek to facilitate.”

With thanks to Barry Baker, Rory Crawford and David Wiedenfeld for information.


Wiedenfeld, D.A., Crawford, R. & Pott, C.M. 2015.  Results of a Workshop on Reduction of Bycatch of Seabirds, Sea Turtles, and Sea Mammals in Gillnets.  National Conservation Training Center Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA, 21-23 January 2015.  American Bird Conservancy & BirdLife International.  pp. 36.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 April 2015

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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