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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Most northerly Southern Giant Petrels on Gough Island gets counted for the third year in a row, suggesting a stable population

A total of 251 incubating pairs of ACAP-listed Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus was counted at four different localities on the United Kingdom’s Gough Island in the South Atlantic last month by Peter Ryan and colleagues of the University of Cape Town's FitzPatrick Institute.  Gough is the most northerly breeding locality for the species.

One of two pairs of Southern Giant Petrels incubating on Long Beach on Gough's east coast in September 2014, photograph by Peter Ryan

The two previous complete-island counts were of 253 incubating pairs in 2012 and 223 in 2013.

Compared to the previous counts, the numbers of breeding birds in Giant Petrel (“GP”) Valley were up, while the numbers in the demographic study colony below Low Hump were down.  However, there is no evidence that colour-banded birds from the Low Hump colony move to other breeding sites on the island, so the year-to-year fluctuations may reflect local variations in the numbers of birds missing a breeding year by taking so-called “sabbaticals”.

Unlike for a number of other seabird species on Gough, there are no observations of giant petrel chicks being attacked by introduced House Mice Mus musculus, which might help explain their currently stable population on the island.

Avian research on Gough Island is conducted with the approval of the Tristan Conservation Department and is supported logistically by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

With thanks to Peter Ryan for information and the photograph.

Selected Literature:

Cuthbert, R.L., Ryan, P.G. & Cooper, J. 2013.  Population trends and breeding success of albatrosses and giant petrels at Gough Island in the face of at-sea and on-land threats.  Antarctic Science 26: 163-171.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 October 2014

Surviving in New Zealand: should the Flesh-footed Shearwater have a threatened status?

Christophe Barbraud (Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Villiers-en-Bois, France) and colleagues have published in the open-access journal Marine Ornithology on survivorship in Flesh-footed Shearwaters Puffinus carneipes in New Zealand.  The species, identified as a potential candidate for ACAP listing (click here), is currently categorized globally as of Least Concern.  However, the authors argue that its conservation status should be reassessed “urgently”.

The paper’s abstract follows:

The Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes is a widespread sub-tropical species, breeding on Southern Hemisphere islands managed by New Zealand, Australia and France.  Recent concern over the population’s stability and frequently noted bycatch in longline fisheries has prompted a review of its conservation status.   Studies of nesting shearwaters at two sites presented here provide detail of survivorship rates for two populations, studied over 13 and 23 years, respectively, in northern New Zealand sites.  Adult survival (0.93–0.94) is moderate to high compared with survival of congeners.  Population growth rates estimated from marked individuals indicate stability for one site and decline at the other site.  Average age of first return of banded chicks was 6.2 years of age in one study and 6.4 years in the other. Current threats affecting survivorship for the New Zealand populations of this species are reviewed.”

Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Tim Reid

Click here to access a recently published paper on the conservation status of the Flesh-footed Shearwater in Australia.


Barbraud, C., Booth, A., Taylor, G.A. & Waugh, S.M. 2014.  Survivorship in Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes at two sites in northern New Zealand.  Marine Ornithology 42: 91-97.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 October 2014

Female-female Laysan Albatross pairs fledge chicks from fostered eggs

Lindsay Young (Pacific Rim Conservation, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA) and colleagues have published online in the open-access journal Marine Ornithology on the results of translocating and fostering eggs of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis are large seabirds that breed primarily in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  In the 1960s, they began colonizing new sites across the Pacific, including the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kaua’i.  Albatross were first recorded at PMRF in 1967, were breeding by 1977 and by 2012 had a colony of 84 nesting pairs.  In 1988, a bird-aircraft strike hazard reduction program was begun in which adults were hazed and eggs were destroyed.  In 2005, a foster parent program was initiated in which inviable eggs from Laysan Albatross pairs on Kaua’i’s North Shore were replaced with viable eggs from PMRF.  From 2009 to 2012, we placed 105 eggs from PMRF in foster nests.  Hatching success of foster eggs (39%) was low because most foster eggs (71%) were placed with female-female pairs, which are known to have low hatching success compared with male-female pairs (32% vs. 63%).  Fledging success of foster nests (93%) was high, but overall reproductive success of foster nests (36%) was lower than average for this species because of the low hatching rate.  This project contributed to the conservation of Laysan Albatrosses by producing 37 additional young for the Kaua’i population and provided valuable insights into incubation, breeding performance and fostering methods.  Additional foster pairs should be sought, and sites on other islands should be identified where excess eggs from PMRF could be used to create new colonies by hand-rearing chicks.”

A Laysan Albatross receives its fostered egg, photograph by Lindsay Young


Young, L.C., Vanderwerf, E.A., Granholm, C., Osterlund, H., Steutermann, K. & Savre, T. 2014.  Breeding performance of Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis in a foster parent program.  Marine Ornithology 42: 99-103.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 October 2014

The USA gets its second predator-proof fence to protect albatrosses and shearwaters on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i

The Kaua‘i National Wildlife Refuge Complex on the USA’s Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i is comprised of the Hanalei, Hulē‘ia and Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuges.  This month as part of the USA’s National Wildlife Refuge Week the refuge complex is celebrating the completion of Kaua‘i’s first predator-proof fence on the slopes of Nīhoku (Crater Hill) within the complex following a ground-breaking ceremony in June.

Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project site

The fence with a mesh skirt and a rolled hood is the second of its type to be erected in Hawaii.  The first Hawaiian predator-proof fence successfully protects ACAP-listed Laysan Albatrosses Phoebastria immutabilis and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus pacificus at Kaena Point on the island of Oahu (click here).  The 725-m fence on Kaua‘i has been designed to keep out introduced mammalian predators such as cats, dogs, mongoose, rats and mice from a 3.1-ha enclosure to protect Laysan Albatrosses which currently breed within it as well as other breeding birds and native plants.  The absence of predators (once removed) will make the site suitable for translocations of the Hawaiian-endemic and Endangered Newell’s Shearwater P. newelli.

The Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985; in 1988 it was expanded to include Nihoku and Mōkōlea Point.

Partners for the Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project include the American Bird Conservancy, the Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (a Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife/Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit project), Pacific Rim Conservation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Read more about the Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project and the positive outcome of its environmental assessment.  See also

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 October 2014


Population status and threats to Flesh-footed Shearwaters in South and Western Australia

Jenn Lavers (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia) has published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science on Flesh-footed Shearwaters Puffinus carneipes in South and Western Australia.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Seabirds are considered reliable indicators of the marine environment due to their reliance on ocean-based resources and position at the top of the marine foodweb.  The status of the world’s bird populations have deteriorated over the past 20 years with seabirds declining faster than any other bird group.  For some seabird species, a lack of data or synthesis of available data limits our ability to detect changes in population trends and gain insight into the condition of the surrounding marine environment.  The Flesh-footed Shearwater (FFSH; Puffinus carneipes) exemplifies this with demographic and count data either absent or outdated for most breeding islands.   Results of a survey of 20 FFSH breeding islands in South and Western Australia during 2011–2014, and a synthesis of all available data indicate the current global population is substantially smaller than previously thought, comprising no more than 74 000 breeding pairs. While much of the reduction in numbers is due to outdated burrow counts which are shown to be a poor measure of population size in this species, there is evidence of a decline in numbers on at least six islands that account for ~ 40% of the world’s population.  A review of novel and existing data on FFSH breeding habits (burrow occupancy and density), concurrent threats, and population size in South and Western Australia are presented here along with priorities for management of this declining marine predator.”


Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Barry Baker

With thanks to Barry Baker.


Lavers, J.L. 2014.  Population status and threats to Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) in South and Western Australia.  ICES Journal of Marine Science doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsu164. (+ supplementary data).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 October 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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