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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Manx Shearwaters get a boost on United Kingdom islands

Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus have bred successfully for the first time “in living memory” on Agnes and Gugh in the United Kingdom’s Isles of Scilly following a seemingly successful rat-eradication exercise.  Ten chicks filmed at their burrow entrances earlier (click here) have now fledged.  Monitoring and quarantine efforts continue on the inhabited islands to ensure rats do not become re-established as described in the latest issue of the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project’s newsletter, The Shearwater.  The two connected islands have now been rat-free for nearly a year.  The Scilly Isles are one of only two localities in England where Manx Shearwaters breed.  The other breeding locality is the island of Lundy where a rat removal operation in 2004 has resulted in its Manxie population continuing to increase in size.  The Lundy Seabird Recovery Project was set up in 2003 to help the Manx Shearwater population, which had fallen to just 300 breeding pairs.  A 2013 survey revealed a tenfold rise in numbers to 3000 pairs (click here).

Manx Shearwater chick in the Isles of Scilly, photograph by Jaclyn Pearson

Manx Shearwaters also breed on islands off Wales in the Irish Sea.  In early October the Welsh Government announced extensions to special protection areas (SPAs) out to sea around the seabird-breeding islands of Grassholm (2 km), Skomer and Skokholm (4 km) and Bardsey (9 km).  Skomer and Skokholm are estimated to be home to over 300 000 and 45 000 pairs of Manx Shearwaters, respectively (approximately half the global population) with Bardsey holding another 16 000 pairs.  The Welsh islands “also host and support cutting-edge research by leading universities into the ecology of the Manx shearwater and other species, which helps inform legal and management changes that support their conservation” (click here).

“These sites will contribute to the network of protected special sites at sea, used by breeding seabirds aiding the colonies to be healthier and more resilient to other issues such as the effects of climate change, like the recent winter storms and sea temperature rise.”

While up in Scotland plans continue to eradicate rats from the Shiant Isles in the hope that Manx Shearwaters will return to breed (click here).


Anon. 2014.  Welsh Government announces protected sites at sea.  The Seabird Group Newsletter 127: 11.

Pearson, J., Marshall, E. & Titterton, L. 2014.  Shearwater chicks successfully fledged on St Agnes & Gugh – first time in living memory!  The Shearwater 4: 1.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 November 2014

Incubation costs in seabirds, including some albatrosses and petrels, get reviewed

Akiko Shoji (Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada) and colleagues have published early-view in the ornithological journal Ibis on aspects of incubation in seabirds, including five ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Energy costs during breeding play an important role in the evolution of life history traits. Seabirds show substantial variation in both incubation shift length (ISL) and metabolic rates.  However, it is still unclear how variation in life history traits relates to incubation metabolic rates (IMR). Here, we examine the relationship between IMR and life history traits, including ISL, fledging strategy (precocial to altricial), incubation period, nest location (surface vs. underground) and clutch mass relative to adult body mass for 30 species of seabirds collated from the literature.  Using both conventional non-phylogenetic and phylogenetic generalized least-squares approaches, we show that IMR is negatively associated with ISL, relative clutch mass and with underground nesting, while fledging strategy and incubation period have no impact on IMR once phylogeny is accounted for.  Maximum likelihood reconstructions further suggest than ancestral seabirds had average ISL and relative clutch mass, and were surface nesters.  We conclude that lower metabolic rates during incubation are associated with both an increased incubation shift length that allows animals to travel farther, as well as the evolutionary emergence of underground nesting that requires less social interaction.”

The Grey-headed Albatross is included in the study, photograph by Richard Phillips


Shoji, A., Elliott, K.H., Aris-Brosou, S., Wilson, R.P. & Gaston, A.J. 2014.  Predictors of incubation costs in seabirds: an evolutionary perspective.  Ibis DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12219.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 November 2014

Female Black-browed Albatrosses “exhibit more variable behaviours” when foraging than do males

Samantha Patrick (Department of Biosciences, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK) and Henri Weimerskirch (Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Villiers-en-Bois, France) have published in the journal Biology Letters on gender differences in foraging behaviour by ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Specialists and generalists often coexist within a single population, but the biological drivers of individual strategies are not fully resolved.  When sexes differ in their foraging strategy, this can lead them to different environmental conditions and stability across their habitat range.  As such, sexual segregation, combined with dominance, may lead to varying levels of specialization between the sexes.  Here, we examine spatial and temporal niche width (intraindividual variability in aspects of foraging behaviour) of male and female black-browedalbatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys), and its consequences for fitness.  We show that females, where maximum foraging range is under fluctuating selection, exhibit more variable behaviours and appear more generalist than males, who are under directional selection to forage close to the colony.  However within each sex, successful birds had a much narrower niche width across most behaviours, suggesting some specialization is adaptive in both sexes.  These results demonstrate that while there are sex differences in niche width, the fitness benefit of specialization in spatial distribution is strong in this wide-ranging seabird.”

Black-browed Albatross at sea, photograph by John Larsen


Patrick, S.C. & Weimerskirch, H. 2014.  Consistency pays: sex differences and fitness consequences of behavioural specialization in a wide-ranging seabird. Biology Letters  doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0630.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 November 2014

UPDATED Consensus not achieved once again: no new MPAs established in the Southern Ocean by CCAMLR this year

 The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) completed its 33rd round of annual meetings in Hobart, Australia last week. On the agenda  - for the fourth year running - were proposals for new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Ross Sea and in East Antarctica, following earlier failures to reach consensus (click here).

The following text is taken from CCAMLR’s news release of this year’s round of meetings:

“Consensus was not reached on either of the proposed MPAs.  Several Members requested additional time to consider issues associated with

  • justification for the sizes of the proposed areas
  • the proposed duration of the MPAs, and
  • the process to support research and monitoring within MPAs and the implications for fisheries.

As CCAMLR operates on a decision-making model that requires consensus, the agreement of all 25 Members is required before a proposal is adopted and implemented.

‘A range of views and national interests on complex issues such as MPAs in international waters creates a challenging environment for reaching consensus,’ says CCAMLR Executive Secretary Andrew Wright.

Research and collaboration continue around the establishment of other MPAs (e.g. in the Weddell Sea) as part of CCAMLR’s representative system of Antarctic MPAs.  These and other conservation issues will be considered at future meetings of CCAMLR.”

Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses occur regularly within CCAMLR waters

Photograph by John Chardine

Creation of new MPAs in the Southern Ocean will help protect those species of seabirds that occur in the region, including ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels.  Although only two ACAP-listed species (Light-mantled Sooty Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata and Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus) breed within the Antarctic Treaty area, the waters of the Southern Ocean are important foraging grounds for many of the ACAP-listed species that breed on sub-Antarctic islands.

This year ACAP was represented at CCAMLR’s Scientific Committee by its Science Officer, Wiesława Misiak and at the Commission’s meeting by its Executive Secretary, Warren Papworth.  Click here for an earlier ALN item on CCAMLR's 2014 meetings.

Click here for Australia's view on the  MPA situation in East Antarctica.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 November 2014, updated -7 November 2014

New Zealand holds a Seabird of the Year competition: will an ACAP-listed species win?

A New Zealand NGO, Forest & Bird, is holding a competition to choose the country’s most popular seabird.  “Vote for your favourite New Zealand seabird.  Our seabirds are sensational and New Zealand is a seabird superpower.  More than one-third of the world’s seabird species spend at least part of their lives above or on New Zealand waters.  Thirty-six of those only breed here.  But tragically more than half of those are threatened with extinction.”

At the time of writing votes have been posted for 31 New Zealand seabirds, of which seven species are albatrosses and petrels listed by ACAP.

The most popular ACAP-listed species in the competition is currently the Vulnerable Salvin’s Albatross Thalassarche salvini which is being championed by its Campaign Manager Igor Debski (Marine Species and Threats, Department of Conservation and New Zealand delegate at recent ACAP meetings).  His campaign states “classified as nationally critical, Salvin’s albatross are one of our most at risk seabirds from bycatch in New Zealand fisheries.  The largest colony is found on Proclamation Island in the Bounty Islands of New Zealand”

Igor writes to ACAP that his colleague Katherine Clements has written a sonnet in support of his campaign – and encourages ACAP Latest News readers to vote for “his” bird.


Thousands of seabirds roam the skies,
To far off shores they all do flock,
But only one seabird can claim the prize,
The elegant Salvin’s mollymawk.

You truly should hope to come across,
A bird of such beauty and unwavering might,
Though not the largest of the albatross,
Its wings span two and a half metres in flight!

You may have thought you travelled heaps,
But the Salvin’s journey quite far,
From New Zealand to Chile they bravely sweeps,
Spanning the sea, y el mar!

So endorse the wondrous bird of the sky,
And VOTE Thalassarche salvini!

The competition does have a serious side:  Forest & Birds works to conserve New Zealand’s seabirds, including those ACAP-listed species affected by fishery practices, through its Save our Seabirds campaign.  The Seabird of the Year competition gives voters the opportunity to donate towards Forest & Bird’s work with seabirds.

Voting closes on the 24th of November.  ALN will report on the winning species once the competition is over.  So far the competition is being led by the Fairy Tern Sternula nereis, New Zealand’s rarest breeding seabird.

With thanks to Igor Debski for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 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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