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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The Marine Stewardship Council reports how certification of a South African trawl fishery has helped save albatrosses – and employment

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) first certified the South African trawl fishery for hake Merluccius spp. in 2004.  The MSC has now reported how certification has not only helped lead to a reduction in albatross and petrel mortality by the adoption of mitigation measures as previously featured  in ACAP Latest News but has led to economic gains to the industry and the protection of up to 12 000 jobs (click here).

“Ten years after it was first certified as sustainable … one of South Africa's oldest commercial fisheries has not only proved its environmental credentials, but has also demonstrated that sustainability can provide long-term economic gains.

"The SA hake fishery has also seen some significant environmental improvements as a result of conditions set at certification.  This includes the introduction of bird-scaring lines. "According to a recent seven-year study by BirdLife South Africa this practice has resulted in a 90% reduction in seabird mortalities, and up to a 99% reduction in accidental albatross deaths in South Africa’s hake trawl fishery.

"A condition on the certification led to the discovery that each year around 10,000 seabirds (70% of which were albatrosses) were being killed accidentally.  BirdLife South Africa recommended the use of bird-scaring lines, to address this problem, and in collaboration with the fishing industry, and with support from the government, conducted scientific research into the effectiveness of this measure.

"Bronwyn Maree, who leads the Albatross Task Force of BirdLife South Africa says: “We’ve worked closely with the certified fishery to demonstrate that avoiding seabird by-catch is good for the environment and good for business.  MSC certification has certainly been instrumental in the successes we’ve seen.”

Black-browed Albatrosses follow a trawler, photograph by Graham Robertson

"Bronwyn recently received recognition for her work on seabird conservation by being named one of the recipients of the prestigious 2014 Future for Nature (FFN) international award.” (click here).

Selected Literature:

Field, J.G., Attwood, C.G., Jarre, A., Sink, K., Atkinson, L.J. and Petersen, S. 2013. Cooperation between scientists, NGOs and industry in support of sustainable fisheries: the South African hake Merluccius spp. trawl fishery experience.  Journal of Fish Biology 83: 1019-1034.

Maree, B.A., Wanless, R.M., Fairweather, T.P., Sullivan, B.J. & Yates, O. 2014.  Significant reductions in mortality of threatened seabirds in a South African trawl fishery.  Animal Conservation doi:10.1111/acv.12126.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 September 2104

ACAP Advisory Committee and Working Groups meet from tomorrow in Punta del Este, Uruguay

Delegates and Secretariat members will be travelling to Uruguay this weekend to attend the Eighth Meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee (AC8) from Monday, 15 September to Friday, 19 September 2014 in Punta del Este.  Meetings of the Population and Conservation Status Working Group (PCSWG) – its second - and the Seabird Bycatch Working Group (SBWG) – its sixth - will be held prior to AC8 from Monday 8 to Tuesday 9 September (PCSWG), and from Wednesday 10 to Friday 12 September (SBWG).

The Advisory Committee meeting will be chaired by Marco Favero (Argentina), the SBWG by Anton Wolfaardt (United Kingdom) and the PCSWG by Richard Phillips (United Kingdom).

Documents and Information Papers for the three meetings are now available for public perusal online on this website (saving for a few which are password-protected for delegates and for which only their abstracts have been made public).  The Advisory Committee will consider any proposals brought forward by Parties to list new species within the Agreement.  Reports on current work programmes and those proposed for the next triennium for both Advisory Committee and Secretariat will also be dscussed.

The committee will also discuss where ACAP will next meet, with the Fifth Session of its Meeting of the Parties due to be held in 2015.

Chatham Albatross, photograph by Matt Charteris

ACAP’s Information Officer will be attending the meetings in support of the Secretariat’s Executive Secretary and Science Officer.  From tomorrow look for daily postings to ACAP Latest News on activities and progress made by ACAP in Punta del Este.

Click here to access the report of the Seventh Meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee, held in La Rochelle, France in May 2013.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 September 2014

Burrowing shearwaters and diving petrels as ecosystem engineers on New Zealand islands

Melody Durrett (Institute of Arctic Biology and Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska, USA) and colleagues write in the journal Plant and Soil on how burrowing seabirds (Flesh-footed shearwaters Puffinus carneipes, Fluttering Shearwaters P. gavia, Grey-faced Petrels Pterodroma macroptera gouldi and Common Diving Petrels Pelecanoides urinatrixstructure soil and plant patterns.

The paper’s abstract follows:


This study investigates how burrow-nesting, colonial seabirds structure the spatial patterns of soil and plant properties (including soil and leaf N) and tests whether burrow density drives these spatial patterns within each of six individual islands that vary greatly in burrow density.


Within individual islands, we compared semivariograms (SVs) with and without burrows as a spatial trend.  We also used SVs to describe and compare the spatial patterns among islands for each of 16 soil and plant variables.


Burrow density within a single island was only important in determining spatial structuring in one-fifth of the island-variable combinations tested.  Among islands, some variables (i.e., soil pH, δ15N, and compaction; microbial biomass and activity) achieved peak spatial variance on intermediate-density islands, while others (i.e., net ammonification, net nitrification, NH4 +, NO3 -) became increasingly variable on densely burrowed islands.


Burrow density at the within-island scale was far less important than expected.  Seabirds and other ecosystem engineers whose activities (e.g., nutrient subsidies, soil disturbance) influence multiple spatial scales can increase spatial heterogeneity even at high densities, inconsistent with a “hump-shaped” relationship between resource availability and heterogeneity.

Fluttering Shearwater in its burrow, photograph by Shane Cotter


Durrett, M.S., Wardle, D.A., Mulder, C.P.H. & Barry, R.P. 2014.  Seabirds as agents of spatial heterogeneity on New Zealand’s offshore islands.  Plant and Soil DOI 10.1007/s11104-014-2172-z.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 September 2015

Australia decides not to list its Flesh-footed Shearwater populations under its Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

Following the species’ public nomination in 2012, Australia has been considering listing its populations of the Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus creatopus under its Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) (click here).

Following “a rigorous scientific assessment of the species’ threat status” by the Act’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) the decision has now been made not to list the species under the Act.  Therefore a recovery plan for this species will not now be produced.  Click here for the TSSC’s conservation advice.

Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Barry Baker

The EPBC Act provides a legal framework to protect and manage nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places.  A national recovery plan in terms of the Act exists for Australia’s breeding and visiting populations of albatrosses and giant petrels Maconectes spp., covering 21 species for the period 2011 to 2016 (click here).

The Flesh-footed Shearwater has been identified as a potential candidate for inclusion within ACAP.  It is listed as of Least Concern globally by BirdLife International.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 September, 2014

Expedition leaves Cape Town today to conduct albatross and petrel research on Gough Island in the South Atlantic

Over the last decade every September marine ornithologists have travelled to Gough Island, part of the United Kingdom’s Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, to conduct research on its threatened populations of albatrosses and petrels.  This year’s expedition sails from Cape Town today on South Africa’s Antarctic research and supply vessel, the m.v. S.A. Agulhas II.

As in previous years, seabird research and monitoring on Gough will concentrate on globally threatened species, including the near-endemic and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, the Endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos and the Endangered Sooty Albatross Phoebastria fusca.  All three ACAP-listed species face fatal attacks on their chicks by Gough’s “killer” House Mice Mus musculus (click here).  Research will also take place on the two other ACAP-listed species that breed on Gough: the Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus (Least Concern) and the Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea (Near Threatened).

Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, photograph by Peter Ryan

Three field assistants on the expedition will remain on Gough until October 2015, residing in South Africa’s weather station on the island:  Christopher Jones, Werner Kuntz and Michelle Risi.  They will continue monitoring of albatrosses and petrels during their stay, as well as continuing with alien plant control in the vicinity of the weather station.  Two field assistants, Delia Davis and Ben Dilley, who have spent a year on the island will return with the ship next month.

The ornithological component of the expedition is being led by Peter Ryan, Director of the University of Cape Town’s FitzPatrick Institute, with financial and logistic support from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and National Science Foundation via the South African National Antarctic Programme, the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and the Tristan Conservation Department (TCD).

In addition an aerial photographic survey by South African helicopter of Gough’s population of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses is planned in September by Alex Bond of the RSPB’s new Centre for Conservation Science with financial support from the UK’s Darwin Initiative and ACAP.  This will be the first-ever such survey, also planned for the main island of Tristan da Cunha, filling, if successful, a noticeable gap in the knowledge of the population size of this species, endemic to the Tristan islands (click here and here).  Alex and Trevor Glass, Head of the TCD, will join the expedition once the ship arrives at Tristan on its way to Gough.

Unlike for the last eight years ACAP’s Information Officer will not take part in this year’s expedition to Gough; instead he will be attending ACAP meetings in Uruguay that commence next week in Punta del Este.

Click here for details of the 2013 ornithological expedition to Gough.

With thanks to Peter Ryan for information

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 September 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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