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ACAP attends two tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organization meetings in Japan to discuss seabird bycatch in high-seas longline fisheries

The 10th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission‘s (IOTC) Working Party on Ecosystems and Bycatch (WPEB) was held in Yokohama, Japan, from 27 to 31 October 2014.

The meeting considered a paper prepared and presented by an ACAP intersessional group identifying the main elements that should be incorporated into a review of IOTC’s seabird conservation measure (Resolution 12/06 On reducing incidental bycatch of seabirds in longline fisheries), which came into force in July 2014.  The WPEB noted that Contracting Parties and Cooperating Non-Contracting Parties (CPCs) of IOTC are required to collect and report data on seabird bycatch and bycatch mitigation measures, and highlighted the importance of these data for the review of Resolution 12/06.  It was also agreed that CPCs should report seabird bycatch figures in their National Reports to the IOTC, together with associated observer programme information, such as the proportion of fishing effort sampled by observers.

The WPEB recognised the extensive distribution of many seabirds, and thus the value of evaluating the efficacy of seabird bycatch mitigation measures across different ocean basins and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs).  It was agreed that it would be useful to develop and maintain linkages with other RFMOs, such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) that are also in the process of developing methods to review the effectiveness of recently adopted seabird bycatch mitigation measures (click here).

At the meeting, BirdLife International presented an update on research undertaken collaboratively with the Republic of Korea on the use of Lumo Leads® in the Korean longline fleet, as well as a practical demonstration of the Fishtek Hook Pod.

At its 2013 meeting, the Ecologically Related Species Working Group (ERSWG) of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) recommended that an Effectiveness of Seabird Mitigation Measures Technical Group (SMMTG) be established to provide advice to the ERSWG on the best approaches for measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of seabird bycatch mitigation measures in Southern Bluefin Tuna Thunnus maccoyii longline fisheries.

The first meeting of the SMMTG took place in Tokyo, Japan, from 04 to 06 November 2014.  The outcomes of the meeting will be used to update a scoping paper on the topic that will be presented to the next meeting of the ERSWG, which is due to take place in March 2015.

ACAP was represented at both meetings by the Convenor of its Seabird Bycatch Working Group, Anton Wolfaardt.


ACAP Intersessional Group 2014.  Preliminary identification of minimum elements to review the effectiveness of seabird bycatch mitigation regulations in tuna RFMOs IOTC–2014–WPEB10–29.  14 pp.

Anton Wolfaardt, Convenor, ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group, 14 November 2014

Assessing plastic ingestion in Short-tailed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters via the uropygial gland

Britta Hardesty (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia) and colleagues have published early view in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution on detecting plastic pollution in seabirds via analysis of their preen gland oil.  Species studied included the Short-tailed Puffinus tenuirostris and Wedge-tailed P. pacificus Shearwaters.Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Barry Baker

The paper’s summary follows:

  1. Plastic pollution is a long-standing ubiquitous issue.  Global use of plastics is continuing to rise, and there is increasing interest in understanding the prevalence and risk associated with exposure of wildlife to plastics, particularly in the marine environment.
  2. In order To facilitate an assessment of ingestion of plastics in seabird populations, we developed a minimally invasive tool that allows for detection of exposure to plastics.
  3. Using a simple swabbing technique in which the waxy preen oil is expressed from the uropygial gland of birds, we successfully tested for the presence of three common plasticizers: dimethyl, dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalate [dimethyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate and bis(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate, respectively].  These plasticizers are prevalent in the manufacturing of plastic end-user items which often end up in the marine environment.
  4. Using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and protocols to reduce background contamination, we were confidently able to detect targeted plasticizers at low levels.
  5. The method described has broad applicability for detecting plastics exposure in wildlife at individual, population and species levels.  Furthermore, the approach can be readily modified as needed to survey for plastics exposure in taxa other than seabirds.
  6. Applying the simple, minimally invasive approach we describe here is particularly appealing for detecting plastics exposure at population and species levels, it shows promise for quantification and it has no observed detrimental impacts to wildlife."
  7. Click here for a media report on the publication.


Hardesty, B.D., Holdsworth, D., Revill, A.T. & Wilcox, C. 2014.  A biochemical approach for identifying plastics exposure in live wildlife.  Methods in Ecology and Evolution  DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12277.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 November 2014

Albatross, cat, mouse and rat: adversaries on invaded islands all get their stories told in Reaktion Books’ Animal Series

The Animal series by Reaktion Books is described as the “first of its kind to explore the historical significance and impact on humans of a wide range of animals, each book in the series takes a different animal and examines its role in history around the world.  The importance of mythology, religion and science are described as is the history of food, the trade in animals and their products, pets, exhibition, film and photography, and their roles in the artistic and literary imagination.”

A total of 68 volumes has been announced to date (click here).  The first book (alphabetically) in the series is fittingly “Albatross” by Graham Barwell, previously reviewed by ACAP Latest News (click here).

Three books in the series deal with widespread predatory mammals that have caused, and continue to cause, havoc on seabird islands to which they have been introduced: feral Domestic Cat Felis catus, rats Rattus spp. and the House Mouse Mus musculus.

A Tristan Albatross chick under attack by mice at night on Gough Island

Photograph by Ross Wanless

“Mouse” by Georgie Carrol is due to be released next week.  Readers of ACAP Latest News will know well of the ravages introduced House Mice are wreaking on the United Kingdom’s Gough Island (click here), so I am expecting the plight of the island’s near-endemic and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena to be mentioned.  Meanwhile here is a flavour of what to expect.

“From Mickey to Jerry to Pinky, mice have played an important role in our childhood cartoons and tales.  Often a heroic figure in culture and fiction – mice are the iconic symbol of Disney – they are also considered one of the human race’s greatest adversaries, responsible for disease and plague.  Presenting a natural and cultural history of the mouse, this book explores the large role this diminutive animal plays in both the animal kingdom and human imagination.”  Should be a good read.

The series, edited by Jonathan Burt, who also wrote “Rat”, includes volumes on the Cow, Dog, Fox, Hedgehog, Goat, Pig and Rabbit, but not yet on Reindeer, all of which have been introduced to more than one seabird island with harmful effect.

Oh yes, for those marine ornithologists who like non-flighted seabirds, there is a book in the series on penguins.


Barwell, Graham 2014.  Albatross.  London: Reaktion Books. 208 pp.

Burt, Jonathan 2006.  Rat.  London: Reaktion Books  189 pp.

Carrol, Georgie 2014.  Mouse.  London: Reaktion Books  224 pp.

Dickinson, Victoria 2013.  Rabbit.  London: Reaktion Books.  216 pp.

Hinson, Joy 2014.  Goat.  London: Reaktion Books.  224 pp. 

Martin, Stephen 2009.  Penguin.  London: Reaktion Books  198 pp.

McHugh, Susan 2004.  Dog.  London: Reaktion Books  232 pp.

Mizelle, Brett 2011.  Pig.  London: Reaktion Books.  224 pp.

Rogers, Katharine M. 2006.  Cat.  London: Reaktion Books  207 pp.

Velton, Hannah 2008.  Cow.  London: Reaktion Books.  207 pp.

Wallen, Martin 2006.  Fox.  London: Reaktion Books.  208 pp.

Warwick, Hugh 2014.  Hedgehog.  London: Reaktion Books.  216 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 November 2014

Cross-border collaboration to protect threatened species: the case of Canada, the USA and the Short-tailed Albatross

Andrea Olive (Departments of Geography and Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada) has published in the journal The Canadian Geographer on deficiencies in collaboration between Canada and the USA to improve protection of threatened species that occur within both countries.

In contrast to most species she reviews the author considers that the ACAP-listed and globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus (inexplicably categorized as a “fish” in the paper) exhibits “a high degree of coordination and cooperation” between the two countries.

The article "makes four specific recommendations to improve policy: finish recovery plans, support necessary travel and communication technology, create a consistent cross-border agency approach to cooperation, and ensure top-down implementation of collaboration.”

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Canada and the United States share 30 endangered or threatened species.  This paper examines the recovery process for species at risk under the two country’s domestic laws: Canada’s Species at Risk Act and the American Endangered Species Act.  These two countries could be working together to recover shared species, especially migratory and cross-border species.  Through comparing the recovery strategies and plans for the 30 species, and interviewing recovery team members on both sides of the border, it is shown that cross-border collaboration is limited.  The paper argues that more collaboration, data sharing, and cross-border recovery teams are needed.  Biodiversity loss is an increasing problem in both countries.”

Short-tailed Albatross at sea, photograph by Aleks Terauds

The regularly-meeting North Pacific Albatross Working Group is not mentioned specifically, nor is the US-based Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Team; both bodies have Canadian and US members.

In terms of cross-border collaboration it is noteworthy that ACAP’s own species assessment for the Short-tailed Albatross was jointly compiled by Greg Balogh of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Ken Morgan of Environment Canada.

Neither Canada nor the USA is a Party to the Albatross and Petrel Agreement, although both nations regularly attend ACAP meetings as actively participating observers.

Selected Literature:

COSEWIC 2013.  COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrusin Canada.  Ottawa: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.  xii + 55 pp.

Environment Canada, 2008.  Recovery Strategy for the Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) and the Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) in Canada.  Ottawa: Environment Canada.  vii + 44 pp.

Olive, A. 2014.  The road to recovery: Comparing Canada and US recovery strategies for shared endangered species.  The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien 58: 263-275.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2008.  Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Plan.  Anchorage: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  105 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 November 2014

Commission on Migratory Species adopts a resolution on marine debris while meeting in Ecuador

The Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP11) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention or CMS) was held in Quito, Ecuador over 4 to 9 November 2014.

Among the many matters discussed were the effects of marine debris on migratory species.  Entanglement with and ingestion (most notably floating plastic items and fragments) of marine debris deleteriously influence seabirds, including ACAP-listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, as has been regularly reported in ACAP Latest News.

Three information papers were considered on the subject of marine debris in support of the resolution.  Report 1 addresses migratory species, marine debris and its management (click here).

A Laysan Albatross corpse containing ingested plastic items, photograph by Chris Jordan

Discussions at CoP11 in Quito, chaired by Barry Baker, CMS Appointed Councillor (By-Catch) from Australia, resulted in the meeting adopting a resolution on marine debris (click here).  The draft text of the resolution, inter alia, calls on Parties “to support the development and application of technology to quantify and track marine debris and establish monitoring programmes that give particular regard, using standardized methodologies, to the prevalence of all the types of debris that may, or are known to, have impacts on migratory species; sources and pathways of these types of debris; geographic distribution of these types of debris; impacts on migratory species, within and between regions; and population level effects on migratory species.”

With thanks to Barry Baker for information.


UNEP/CMS Secretariat 2014.  Management of marine debrisNEP/CMS/COP11/Doc.23.4.6.  26 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 November 2014 

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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