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 USA’s latest review of the Short-tailed Albatross makes no change to its domestic conservation status

A review of the conservation status of the globally Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus is required every five years by section 4(c)(2) of the United States’ Endangered Species Act (ESA), under which the species is currently categorized as endangered.  The previous review was published in 2009.

The most recent review released last September by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recommends that no change to the domestic conservation status of the albatross be made, and that despite the species’ building numbers it did not as yet warrant being downlisted to threatened, a lower level of conservation concern in terms of the ESA, or to being delisted.

The report identified the need for an up-to-date survey of the breeding population of Short-tailed Albatrosses on the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which form a disputed territory, and as a consequence there is no more recent information from them available than for 2002.

“It is important to emphasize that both reclassification and delisting criteria require verified information about actual colony growth in the Senkaku Islands” obtaining which remains “one of the highest priority recovery actions for the species”.

However, the USFWS does predict “with guarded optimism that by 2052, they will have fully recovered from the devastating market hunting that caused their endangerment”.

Female Short-tailed Albatross on Midway Atoll, photograph by Sarah Gutowsky

The report also goes into detail on translocation efforts to establish new colonies, at-sea mortality due to fishing operations and ensuing mitigation research conducted in  the last five years.

Click here to read of Canada’s 2013 reassessment of the conservation status of the Short-tailed Albatross.

References:

Lance, E. 2014.  Conservation status of Short-tailed Albatross.  In: Pacific Seabird Group.  Forty-Second Annual Meeting: a Future for Seabirds San Jose, California, USA Abstract Book 18 - 21 February 2015 San Jose Airport Garden Hotel.  p. 79.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2014.  5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus).   Anchorage: Fish and Wildlife Field Office.  42 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 February 2015

A Future for Seabirds: the Pacific Seabird Group meets next week to hear about North Pacific albatrosses (and other procellariiforms)

The Pacific Seabird Group will be holding its 42nd Annual Meeting next week in San Jose, California, USA, with the theme “A Future for Seabirds”.

According to the meeting’s abstract book 10 presentations will be given on the three species of ACAP-listed Northern Pacific albatrosses, as well on mitigation of seabird bycatch, as listed below.

Vickie Bakker & Myra Finkelstein.  Risk management for at-risk seabirds: assessing bycatch effects on the population dynamics of Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes).

Melinda Conners, Chandra Goetsch, Suzanne Budge, Yoko Mitani, William Walker, Daniel Costa & Scott Shaffer.  Black-footed Albatrosses have higher levels of individual variability in behavior and diet than their sympatrically-breeding congener, the Laysan Albatross.

Karen Courtot, Michelle Reynolds, Paul Berkowitz, Janet Moore & Elizabeth Flint.  Effects of sea-level rise and wave-driven inundation on colonial seabirds at Midway Atoll.

Amanda Gladics, Troy Guy, Edward Melvin, Robert Suryan, & Joseph Tyburczy.  Collaborating with fishermen to reduce seabird bycatch in west coast Sablefish fisheries.

Sarah Gutowsky, Ian Jonsen, Marty Leonard & Scott Shaffer.  Daily activity budgets reveal a quasi-flightless stage during non-breeding in Hawaiian albatrosses.

Julio Hernández-Montoya, Carlo Catoni, Alfonso Aguirre-Muñoz, Cecilia Soldatini, Luciana Luna Mendoza & Yuri Albores-Barajas.  Sexual size dimorphism and sexual segregation in foraging distributions in Laysan Albatross from Guadalupe Island, Mexico.

Caitlin Kroeger, Daniel Crocker, Rachael Orben, David Thompson, Leigh Torres & Scott Shaffer.  Comparative foraging energetics of breeding Campbell and Grey-headed Albatrosses.

Ellen Lance.  Conservation status of Short-tailed Albatross.

Edward Melvin & Esteban Fernandez-Juricic.  Laser technology for seabird bycatch prevention in commercial fisheries.

Lindsay Young, Eric VanderWerf, Cathy Granholm, Hob Osterlund, Kim Steutermann & Thomas Savre.  Breeding performance of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis in a foster parent program.

Short-tailed Albatross fledgling on Midway Atoll, photograph by Dan Clark

Presentations will also be made on the following procellariiform species: Northern or Arctic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, Pink-Footed Shearwater Puffinus creatopus, Audubon’s Shearwater P. lherminieri, Great Shearwater P. gravis, Sooty Shearwater P. griseus, Hutton's Shearwater P. huttoni, Christmas Shearwater P. nativitatis, Newell’s Shearwater P. newelli, Black-vented Shearwater P. opisthomelas, Wedge-tailed Shearwater P. pacificus, Manx Shearwater P. puffinus, Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas, Hawaiian Petrel Pterodroma sandwichensis, Ringed Storm Petrel Hydrobates hornbyi, Ashy Storm Petrel Oceanodroma homochroa (in a special session), Leach’s Storm Petrel O. leucorhoa and Tristram's Storm Petrel O. tristrami.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 February 2015

Using doubly-labelled water to estimate field metabolic rates of Streaked Shearwaters

Yasuaki Niizuma (Laboratory of Environmental Zoology, Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan) and Maski Shirai have tested a single-sample approach to assessing metabolic rates of Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas, publishing in the journal Ornithological Science.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The doubly labelled water method is a common means of investigating field metabolic rates (FMRs) of free-ranging animals by injecting oxygen and hydrogen isotopes.  Compared with a general two-sample approach including double blood sampling, a single-sample approach, which includes an estimation of initial isotope enrichment and single blood sampling, has been developed as a less invasive technique with lower impact on the behavior of study subjects.  However, little attempt has been made to improve the indirect estimation of initial isotope enrichment and to apply the two-pool model for calculating FMR from the single-sample approach.  Therefore, we studied the validity of a single-sample approach in the Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelas.  We developed equations for estimating initial isotope enrichment based on the amount of injected isotopes and body mass collected from 15 shearwaters.  Then, for six shearwaters subjected to a two-sample approach, we calculated the turnover rates of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes (ko and kd), and FMR using the two-pool model with measured and initial isotope enrichments.  The arithmetic errors were -0.01% for the estimated initial enrichments of oxygen isotope and -0.11% for hydrogen isotope.  The ko, using estimated initial isotope, is overestimated by 3.2% on average, while kd is underestimated by 0.4% in comparison with those measured by the two-sample approach.  The FMR measured by the single-sample approach are overestimated by 12.0% (± 12.1 SD) in comparison with those measured by the two-sample approach.  We were able to estimate reliably the initial enrichments of both isotopes and apply the two-pool model in the calculation of FMR.”

Streaked Shearwater at sea 

Reference:

Niizuma. Y. & Shirai, M. 2015.  Applicability of a single-sample approach for the doubly labelled water method to the Streaked Shearwater Calonectris leucomelasOrnithological Science 14: 21-28.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 February 2015

Does monitoring of Grey-headed Albatrosses affect their breeding? A study conducted at Marion Island

Mariette Wheeler (Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues published in the African Journal of Marine Science in 2013 on the effects of human disturbance on Grey-headed Albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma breeding on South Africa’s Marion Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Nest monitoring is commonly used to gather important seabird demographic data, but monitoring itself can affect seabird behaviour and offspring survival.  The effect of monitoring on grey-headed albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma at Subantarctic Marion Island was investigated.  The behaviour of chicks close to fledging and of brooding adults was recorded in research and non-research sections of the colony.  This was done prior to, during and after researcher/s entered the research sections of the colony.  During disturbance, both chicks and adults in research sections were more likely to be standing and to be more responsive than during the pre-disturbance phase.  However, adults appeared to be more sensitised to disturbance and this is likely because of being previously handled.  Offspring survival in research sections was compared with survival in (a) sections less-frequently entered (2004/2005) and (b) sections monitored through fixed-point photography (2005/2006 and 2006/2007).  In February of each of the three years of study, offspring survival was 62.5%, 55.8% and 71.8% respectively.  Disturbance level, size of section and the interaction of these two factors did not explain significant amounts of the among-section survival variance, but rainfall explained almost all of the temporal variation in offspring survival in 2006/2007.  Although research activities influenced the short-term behavioural responses of chicks and adults in the research sections of the colony, it did not seem to influence the survival of offspring.  Nevertheless, fixed-point photography is recommended as a non-intrusive monitoring method.”

A Grey-headed Albatross study colony on Marion Island, photograph by Kim Stevens 

Click here for a related ACAP Latest News item on disturbance effects on albatrosses at Marion Island.

Selected Literature:

de Villiers, M.S., Cooper, J. & Ryan, P.G. 2005.  Individual variability of behavioural responses by Wandering Albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) to human disturbance.  Polar Biology 28: 255-260.

Wheeler, M., de Villiers, M.S. & Altwegg, R. 2013.  Effect of human disturbance on the behavioural responses and offspring survival of grey-headed albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma at Subantarctic Marion Island.  African Journal of Marine Science 35: 533-543.

Wheeler, M., de Villiers, M.S. & Majiedt, P.A. 2009.  The effect of frequency and nature of pedestrian approaches on the behaviour of wandering albatrosses at sub-Antarctic Marion Island.  Polar Biology 32: 197-205.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 February 2015

The Wandering Albatrosses at Marion Island get counted for another year - and some French birds are found

Each year since the early 1980s, a team of ornithological researchers at South Africa’s Marion Island in the southern Indian Ocean has undertaken a round-island hike to count incubating Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans.

This year a combined group of five employed by the FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town and Branch: Oceans & Coasts, Department of Environmental Affairs undertook the census over the last two weeks of January.  Teams of one to three persons headed out to field huts around the island and counted every occupied nest in 25 sectors to allow for year-to-year comparisons.

A total of 1787 incubating nests was found.  This compares with a range of 1760 to 2056 annually breeding pairs over the five years, 2010 to 2014.

Similar censuses of Wandering Albatrosses have been undertaken this year at other sub-Antarctic islands where the species breeds, such as Bird in the South Atlantic and Macquarie in the southern Pacific.

All occupied nests visited were checked for the presence of eggs and bands on the incubating birds.  Recording of GPS coordinates will help these banded birds being traced in future years.  A total of 119 banded birds was found outside three long-term demographic study colonies - where all breeding birds are both metal and colour-banded and nests are staked.  Of this total, eight incubating adults bore metal bands beginning with the prefix BS, denoting them as having been banded on Île de la Possession in the French Crozet Islands, some 1100 km to the east of Marion Island.

However, a previous study has shown that not all French-banded birds recorded at the Prince Edward Islands were necessarily bred on the Crozets, although some undoubtedly were, as explained in the following abstract.

“Exchange of 61 wandering albatrossesDiomedea exulans has been recorded between the French Crozet Islands and the South African Prince Edward Islands, 1 068 km apart in the Southern Ocean.  Most movements of banded birds (57) have been westwards, from the Crozets to the Prince Edwards.  In all, 18 fledglings banded at Possession Island, Crozets, have bred at Marion Island, Prince Edwards, but only one fledgling from Marion Island has been recorded breeding on Possession.  The wandering albatrosses of the two island groups form a metapopulation that ideally should be conserved as a single unit.  It is suggested that France and South Africa collaborate through the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels to effect [sic] an improved conservation status for the wandering albatrosses of the two island groups.”

With thanks to Alexis Osborne, Liezl Pretorius and Peter Ryan for information and photographs

References:

Cooper, J. & Weimerskirch, H. 2003.  Exchange of Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans between the Prince Edward and Crozet Islands: implications for conservation.  African Journal of Marine Science 25: 519-523.

Ryan, P.G., Jones, M.G.W., Dyer, B.M., Upfold, L. & Crawford, R.J.M. 2009.  Recent population estimates and trends in numbers of albatrosses and giant petrels breeding at the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands.  African Journal of Marine Science 31: 409-471.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 February 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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