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.

Contact the ACAP Communications Advisor if you wish to have your news featured.

Wisdom, the World’s oldest and most well-known albatross, loses her egg on Midway Atoll

ACAP Latest News has regularly reported on Midway Atoll’s Wisdom, a Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis, the World’s oldest known albatross calculated to be at least 63 years old (click here).  Wisdom and her partner have bred successfully in the last few years and have been attempting breeding again this year (click here).

Wisdom incubating on 7 December 2014, photograph by Greg Joder

However, news from Midway’s website is that the pair's latest breeding attempt has failed at the egg stage, as described below:

“There comes a time when nature reminds us when there is life, there is death.  As of January 6, 2015 Deputy Refuge Manager Bret Wolfe observed Wisdom, the world’s oldest known albatross, sitting on her nest without an egg, (she and her mate were both sharing incubation duties for most of December 2014).

So what’s up with the missing egg? Of the over 694,000 albatross nests counted on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge during December 2014 a percentage of those nests with eggs have not hatched and some eggs have disappeared.  The island’s natural egg predators such the ruddy turnstones or bristle-thighed curlews can actually take eggs that are not closely attended.  Cockroaches and other scavengers such as mice can quickly move in to clean house and devour shell remnants of damaged eggs.  When this happens the albatross pair abandons their [sic] nest and tries again next year.  Additionally, Laysan albatross occasionally skip a year or even two as they use their precious energy resources to complete a full molt while at sea or simply take a breather to replenish their energy after accomplishing an exhaustive seven-month incubation and chick rearing effort.  Wisdom and her mate have been sighted and they appear to be fine.  Don't forget that Wisdom has maintained a record-breaking track record for rearing chicks beyond an age that humans understood was possible. We are therefore hopeful Wisdom and her mate will return next year to start nature’s cycle of rearing chick number 30 something!”

Click here for still photos and video clips of Wisdom incubating during December last year.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 February 2015

Wandering Albatrosses continue to hang on at Australia’s Macquarie Island with four fledglings produced from last year’s breeding cohort

Australian albatross researchers Kate Lawrence and Jarrod Hodgson who are currently stationed on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island report that four Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans have fledged from the 2104 breeding cohort.  “Macca” supports one of the smallest breeding populations of this Vulnerable species, and one that has declined in size over the last several decades.

The following is quoted from the island’s on-line newsletter This Week at Macquarie Island for 6 February:

“Most recently, we have been observing last season’s wandering albatross chicks, and finding out how many 'wanderer' eggs have been laid this season.  Four of the six chicks that hatched last season have fledged, and Jarrod was lucky to witness one taking its maiden flight and heading out to sea.  If these youngsters survive, they will remain out at sea for several years before returning to try to find a partner."

One of the seven 2014 cohort pairs during the incubation period, photograph by Kate Lawrence

"Unfortunately though, two chicks did not make it.  Necropsies revealed the most likely causes of death as starvation.  This could indicate that the parents have not been able to find enough food for both themselves and to support their young.  Or perhaps one or both of the parents have met an untimely fate, possibly through interactions with commercial fishing operations, particularly long-line fishing, which remains a key threat facing albatrosses worldwide.”

One of the two 2014-cohort chicks that died of apparent starvation, photograph by Kate Lawrence

Seven eggs were laid last year (click here) of which six hatched in March (86%) and four fledged after being banded, giving an overall breeding success of 57%.

And prospects for this year?  The two researchers report just five eggs laid, suggesting a combined breeding population for the biennially-breeding Wandering Albatross on Macquarie Island of no more than 12-15 pairs.

With thanks to Kate Lawrence for information and photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 February 2015

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission produces a report on the status of seabirds in the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has produced a detailed report on the status of seabirds in the Indian Ocean.  The report forms part of a larger study that summarizes the status of tuna and tuna-like species under the IOTC mandate, as well as other species, such as billfish, sharks and turtles, which are impacted by IOTC fisheries.

The report covers 19 seabird species, all but four being ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels, reported as caught in fisheries within the IOTC area of competence.  It states that the “level of mortality of seabirds due to fishing gear in the Indian Ocean is poorly known, although where there has been rigorous assessment of impacts in areas south of 25 degrees (e.g. in South Africa), very high seabird incidental catches rates have been recorded in the absence of a suite of proven incidental catches mitigation measures.”

Amsterdam Albatross occurs in the Indian Ocean, photograph by Trevor Hardaker

The report further notes that:

the available evidence indicates considerable risk from longline fishing to the status of seabirds in the Indian Ocean, where the best practice seabird incidental catches mitigation measures outlined in IOTC Resolution 12/06 On Reducing the Incidental Bycatch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries are not implemented;

CPCs (Cooperating non-Contracting Parties) that have not fully implemented the provisions of the IOTC Regional Observer Scheme outlined in Paragraph 2 of IOTC Resolution 11/04 On a Regional Observer Scheme shall report seabird incidental catches through logbooks, including details of species, if possible; and

appropriate mechanisms should be developed by the Compliance Committee to assess levels of compliance by CPCs with the Regional Observer Programme requirements and the mandatory measures described in Resolution 12/06.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 February 2014


Moult of young Black-browed Albatrosses based on at-sea photographs

Robert Flood ( St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, UK) has published in the 2104 issue of Seabird, the annual journal of the Seabird Group, on moult patterns of immature Black-browed Albatross  Thalassarche melanophris based on “hundreds” of photographs of  birds taken at sea.

Black-browed Albatross Denmark John Larsen 

Black-browed Albatross at sea, photograph by John Larsen


Flood, R.K. 2014.  Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris primary moult timing in the fourth prebasic moult.  Seabird 27: 98-103.

NOTE: the paper has no abstract and a complete PDF will be available online in May 2015.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 February 2015

Survival of Manx Shearwaters fledging from Skokholm Island

Chris Perrins (Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, University of Oxford, UK) has published in the 2104 issue of Seabird, the annual journal of the Seabird Group, on survival of Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus banded as fledglings in the 1960s and 1970 on an island off Wales.

The paper’s abstract follows:

During an 11-year period starting in the mid-1960s, large numbers of fledgling Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus were ringed and recaptured on Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales.  Since it is unlikely that any more will ever be found, this paper summarises the factors that affected the chances of a fledgling surviving long enough to be recaptured on the island.  Both the date on which they were ringed and their weight at that time influenced the probability that they would be recaptured.  Some implications for the annual cycle are discussed.

Manx chick Scillies Jaclyn Pearson  

Manx Shearwater fledgling, photograph by Jaclyn Pearson


Perrins, C.M. 2014. Factors affecting survival of fledgling Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus.  Seabird 27: 62-71.

NOTE:  the complete PDF will become available online in May 2015.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 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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