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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Gill nets, longlines, Arctic Fulmars and shearwaters: seabird bycatch in eastern Canadian waters reviewed

April Hedd (Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology, Psychology Department, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada) and colleagues have reviewed seabird bycatch in eastern Canadian waters over a 13-year period in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.

The paper’s abstract follows:

  1. Seabird bycatch in commercial fisheries has been a growing conservation concern over the past 25 years.  Large-scale fisheries employing gears known to incidentally catch seabirds operate off eastern Canada, however, regional bycatch information is limited.
  2. 2. Using data collected from 1998–2011 by observers onboard Canadian domestic and foreign vessels, fishery sectors and target fisheries taking seabirds were identified, as were the seabirds most frequently taken.  In addition, maps of seabird bycatch rates were used to identify localized areas where catch rates were high.
  3. 3. Seabird bycatch was widespread.  Despite generally low observer coverage, > 5000 bird deaths were recorded; most observed mortalities occurred in gillnet and longline sectors during summer and autumn.  While the overall magnitude of seabird bycatch has likely decreased substantially since closure of the Atlantic cod Gadus morhua and Atlantic salmon Salmo salar gillnet fisheries in 1992, localized areas with high bycatch rates persist.
  4. 4. For example, in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait, bycatch rates of northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis were high in gillnet and longline fisheries targeting Greenland halibut Reinhardtius hippoglossoides near breeding colonies.  In offshore areas of the Grand Bank, catch rates of migrant shearwaters (Puffinus and Calonectris spp.) were high in deep-set gillnet fisheries for Greenland halibut and monkfish Lophius americanus during summer.  In inshore regions of eastern Newfoundland, gillnets set for Atlantic cod near breeding colonies resulted in high bycatch rates of murres Uria spp. and shearwaters during summer.  High bycatch rates were also observed in pelagic longline fisheries along the Scotian Shelf.
  5. 5. While the observer data have highlighted several localized areas with high bycatch rates, information for inshore gillnet fisheries, which take seabirds but are poorly covered by the observer programme, and regional information on fishing effort must both be considered for comprehensive assessment of seabird risk areas and consequent management needs in eastern Canada.

Calonectris shearwater, photograph by John Graha

With thanks to Barry Baker for information.


Hedd, A., Regular, P.M., Wilhelm, S.I., Rail, J.-F., Drolet, B., Fowler, M., Pekarik, C. & Robertson, G.J. 2015.  Characterization of seabird bycatch in eastern Canadian waters, 1998–2011, assessed from onboard fisheries observer data.  Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems  DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2551.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 March 2015

Bryan’s Shearwater is confirmed breeding in Japan’s Ogasawara Islands

The breeding site of the recently described Bryan’s Shearwater Puffinus bryani has been suspected to be on Japan’s Ogasawara Islands where corpses of birds have been previously found (click here).

News is now in of the confirmation of breeding by the Critically Endangered shearwater with an incubating bird being discovered on Higashijima Island in the Ogasawaras, as described below by the Mainichi Japan of 25 March.

“A team of scientists has confirmed a nesting site of an endangered seabird species once thought to have gone extinct on the Ogasawara island chain, it has been learned -- the first time a nesting site of the species has ever been discovered.

The species, "Bryan's Shearwater," whose body length ranges between 27 and 30 centimeters, was believed to have gone extinct after it was last seen on Midway Atoll in 1991. Scientists conducted DNA testing on seabirds found on the Ogasawara Islands -- which have been recognized as a UNESCO world natural heritage site -- between 1997 and 2011, as their features matched those of the Bryan's Shearwater.

In 2012, it was confirmed that the birds were indeed members of the Bryan's Shearwater species. The Ministry of the Environment subsequently included the birds in the Red List as a critically endangered "IA" species.

In the latest discovery, scientists including Kazuto Kawakami, a senior researcher at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, went ashore on several uninhabited islands of the Ogasawaras during the night, and searched for the rare bird by observing its high-pitched cry.

The researchers spotted a flock of 10 Bryan's Shearwaters on Higashijima island, approximately three kilometers east of Chichijima island, on Feb. 25-26. One of those birds was holding eggs inside of its nest.

"They were the only Bryan's Shearwaters found when we searched areas of some 3 hectares," Kawakami said. "We believe that the number of the species living on the islands is extremely small.  The seabirds may be surviving on other islands," he continued, "and we need to exterminate mice as well as alien plants, to avert the risk of losing these precious birds."


A Bryan's Shearwater takes shelter under rocks on Higashijima Island

Photograph courtesy of the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute

For a similar news story from the Asahai Shimbun on the discovery click here.

For a press release (in Japanese) by the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute with photographs of the birds and their breeding habitat on Higashijima Island click here.

Selected Literature:

Chikara, O. 2011.  Possible records of the newly described Bryan's Shearwater in Japan.  BirdingASIA 16: 86-88.

Kawakami, K., Eda, M., Horikoshi, K., Suzuki, H., Chiba, H. & Hiraoka, T. 2012.  Bryan's Shearwaters have survived on the Bonin Islands, Northwestern Pacific.  Condor 114: 507-512.

Pyle, P., David, R., Eilerts, B.D., Amerson, A.B., Borker, A. & Mckown, M. 2014.  Second record of Bryan’s Shearwater Puffinus bryani from Midway Atoll, with notes on habitat selection, vocalizations and at-sea distribution.  Marine Ornithology42: 5-8.

Pyle, P., J. Welch, A.J. & Fleischer, R.C. 2011.  A new species of shearwater (Puffinus) recorded from Midway Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  Condor113: 518-527.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 March 2015

Are Hawaii’s Newell’s Shearwater and Mexico’s Townsend’s Shearwater a single species?

Juan  Martínez-Gómez (Instituto de Ecología, Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Ornithology on the taxonomic status of the closely related Newell’s Puffinus newelli and Townsend’s P. auricularis Shearwaters.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Townsend’s Shearwater (Puffinus auricularis auricularis) is a highly threatened bird and currently breeds on Socorro and Clarión Islands, México.  This subspecies has minor differences in plumage patterns when compared to Newell’s Shearwater of Hawaii (USA) (Puffinus auricularis newelli).  These two forms are recognized as subspecies by the American Ornithologist’s Union.  However, some authors consider them as distinct species based on subtle plumage differences and different breeding chronologies.  We used Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood methods to compare the cytochrome b and cytochrome oxidase I sequences from Townsend’s Shearwaters with archived mitochondrial sequences from other taxa in the genus Puffinus.  Townsend’s and Newell’s Shearwaters show little genetic differentiation; hence, there is no justification to consider them as different species.  Additionally, differences in morphology and ecology might be the result of founder effects and phenotypic plasticity; proven migratory potential provides support to the current taxonomic assessment that considers these birds as conspecifics.  We recommend the continued treatment of Townsend’s and Newell’s Shearwaters as two subspecies of P. auricularis.  We also advocate treating the Rapa Shearwater (P. myrtae) as a distinct species.”

Newell's Shearwater, Photograph by Eric Vanderwerf 


Martínez-Gómez, J.E.,  Matías-Ferrer. N., Sehgal, R.N.M. & Escalante, P. 2015.  Phylogenetic placement of the critically endangered Townsend’s Shearwater (Puffinus auricularis auricularis): evidence for its conspecific status with Newell’s Shearwater (Puffinus a. newelli) and a mismatch between genetic and phenotypic differentiation.  Journal of Ornithology DOI 10.1007/s10336-015-1189-2.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 March 2015


A translocated hand-reared Short-tailed Albatross is confirmed breeding successfully in Japan's Ogasawara Islands

In May last year a Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus chick was found on Nakodojima Island, five kilometres south of Mukojima Island in Japan's Ogasawara Islands where a translocation project (70 chicks over the four years 2007-2011) was undertaken, but it was not possible to identify the parent birds (click here).

In the current breeding season, a pair made up of a female hand-reared on Mukojima in 2009 and a naturally-reared male bird from Torishima was identified on Nakodojima.  The pair failed to breed this time but it was confirmed that they were the parents of last year's chick by a parentage DNA test in a cooperative study conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Institute of Boninology and the Hokkaido University Museum.

The 2014 Short-tailed Albatross chick on Nakodojima Island, photograph courtesy of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government

A young Short-tailed Albatross on Mukojima Island, photograph by the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology

This finding supports the success of the reintroduction of Short-tailed Albatrosses from Torishima to the Ogasawara Islands.

With thanks to Tomohiro Deguchi, Yamashina Institute for Ornithology for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 March 2015

The Sixth International Albatross and Petrel Conference (Barcelona, Spain, September 2016) launches its website and opens for pre-registration

The Sixth International Albatross and Petrel Conference (IAPC6) is to be held in Barcelona, Spain, over 19-23 September 2016.  The conference follows on from the successful Fifth Conference held in Wellington, New Zealand in August 2012.  It continues a series that commenced with the First Conference, held in Hobart, Australia in 1995.  Intervening conferences were held in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA (2000), Montevideo, Uruguay (2004) and Cape Town, South Africa (2008).

At the Fifth Conference (IAPC5) an informal approach was made to Jacob González-Solís of the Departament de Biologia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona, to consider hosting the next conference in Spain in four years’ time.  Acceptance of the suggestion came through in November that year, with the intention to hold IAPC6 in Barcelona in September 2016 (click here).

This will be the first time an albatross and petrel conference is to be held in Europe.  It will follow on from Spain hosting the Fifth Session of ACAP’s Meeting of Parties, to be held this May in Tenerife, Canary Islands, and earlier from Spain successfully nominating its endemic and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus to the Agreement in 2012 (click here).

Balearic Shearwater, photograph by Miguel McMin

IAPC6 has now opened its website for pre-registration.  You can sign up now to ensure you receive further information on the conference.

Key dates announced on the conference website include early registration and abstract and travel award submissions by 1 March 2016.  Travel award winners will be announced by 1 June next year.

The Local Organizing Committee consists of Jacob González-Solís, Gaia Dell'Ariccia and Raül Ramos Garcia, all of the Departament de Biologia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona (click here for their profiles).

With thanks to Jacob González-Solís for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 March 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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