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You go sisters! Two seabird conservationists receive prestigious awards for work with albatrosses and other seabirds

Two seabird conservationists have recently received receive prestigious awards for work with albatrosses and other seabirds: Bronwyn Maree of South Africa has received the Future for Nature Award for 2014 and Barbara Wienecke from Australia has been awarded the Australian Antarctic Medal.

The Future for Nature Award 2014, an international, competitive award for young conservationists, has been won by South African Bronwyn Maree.  Bronwyn leads BirdLife International’s Albatross Task Force (ATF) in South Africa, working through BirdLife South Africa.  She is one of three winners chosen from 10 nominees out of 126 applications from 58 countries.  The international award comes with a purse of €50 000 to be used for a project of her choice.  Bronwyn was also a top ten finalist for the Future for Nature 2013 Award.

Bronwyn Maree joined the South African ATF team in 2008 as an instructor and was promoted to its leader in 2010.  According to the Future for Nature Foundation “Since implementing ATF-recommended measures, seabird mortalities have decreased [in South African waters] by an amazing 75-95% (most notably albatross mortalities) in the foreign-flagged longline fishery and the domestic trawl fishery, saving thousands of endangered seabirds each year.  Bronwyn has collected at-sea data on interactions of seabirds with fishing gear on 40 sea trips in five years on board commercial trawlers, conducted and overseen scientific experiments testing new technologies, and trained skippers, crew and even the fishing industry’s CEOs.  Under Bronwyn’s leadership, new sources of mortality have been found and creative solutions have been devised, agreed to by government and industry, and implemented in legally binding permits.”

Read more on Bronwyn Maree’s work to help conserve albatrosses and petrels and her award here.

 Bronwyn Maree

Barbara Wienecke was awarded the Australian Antarctic Medal in June last year (click here).  “Barb” is a Senior Ecologist with the Australian Antarctic Division where she has worked for two decades and is best known for her research on penguins on the Antarctic Continent: “Dr Wienecke is highly regarded on the world stage and should be applauded for her long-term work with seabirds, particularly penguins, often at remote field locations in cramped and uncomfortable conditions and at the mercy of extreme weather conditions.”

However, she has also worked with albatrosses and petrels, both on land at sea, co-publishing on mitigating seabird bycatch on longliners (working closely with fellow Australian Antarctic Medal Awardee, Graham Robertson) and on field work conducted on Chilean islands (see below).  Recently Barb has been supporting the Albatrosses and Petrel Agreement by contributing several illustrated texts to the ACAP Breeding Site Series.

Barb Wienecke on Isla Diego de Almagro, Chile in 2001

Selected References:

Hindell, M.A., Bost, C.A., Charrassin, J.B., Gales, N., Lea, M.A., Goldsworthy, S., Page, B., Robertson, G., Wienecke, W., O'Toole, M. & Guinet, C. 2011.  Foraging habitats of top predators, and areas of ecological significance, on the Kerguelen Plateau.  In: Duhamel, G. & Welsford, D. (Eds).  The Kerguelen Plateau: Marine Ecosystem and Fisheries.  Société d'Ichtyologie 2011: 203-215.

Johnson, J. 2013.  Australian Antarctic Medal celebrates 25 years.  Australian Antarctic Magazine 25: 24-25.

Lawton, K., Robertson, G., Valencia, J., Wienecke, B. & Kirkwood, R. 2003.  The status of Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophrys at Diego de Almagro Island, Chile.  Ibis 145: 502-505.

Melvin, E.F., Sullivan, B., Robertson, G. & Wienecke, B. 2004.  A review of the effectiveness of streamer lines as a seabird by-catch mitigation technique in longline fisheries and CCAMLR streamer line requirements.  CCAMLR Science 11: 189-201.

Pyper, W. 2013.  Penguin Barb.  Australian Antarctic Magazine.

Robertson, G., McNeill, M., Smith, N., Wienecke, B., Candy, S & Olivier, F 2006.  Fast sinking (integrated weight) longlines reduce mortality of white-chinned petrels (Procellaria aequinoctialis) and sooty shearwaters (Puffinus griseus) in demersal longline fisheries.  Biological Conservation 132: 458-471.

Robertson, G., Moreno, C., Arata, J.A., Candy, S.G., Lawton, K., Valencia, J., Wienecke, B., Kirkwood, R., Taylor, P. & Suazo, C.G. 2014.  Black-browed albatross numbers in Chile increase in response to reduced mortality in fisheries.  Biological Conservation 169: 319-333.

Seco Pon, J.P., Wienecke, B. & Robertson, G. 2007.  First record of Salvin's Albatross (Thalassarche salvini) on the Patagonian Shelf.  Notornis 54: 49-51.

Sullivan, B.J., Kibel, P., Robertson, G., Kibel, B., Goren, M., Candy, S.G. & Wienecke, B. 2012.  Safe Leads for safe heads: safer line weights for pelagic longline fisheries.  Fisheries Research 134-136: 125-132.

Wienecke, B., Leaper, R., Hay, I. & van den Hoff, J. 2009.  Retrofitting historical data in population studies: Southern Giant Petrels in the Australian Antarctic Territory.  Endangered Species Research 8: 157-164.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 January 2013

The South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation will consider a seabird bycatch mitigation measure at its 2nd Commission Meeting this week

The South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) is an intergovernmental organisation committed to the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fishery resources of the South Pacific Ocean and in so doing safeguarding the marine ecosystems in which the resources occur.  The Organization is holding its Second Commission Meeting in Manta, Ecuador over 27-31 January (click here for the provisional agenda)

At the meeting New Zealand will present a proposal for a Conservation and Management Measure to reduce seabird bycatch within waters covered by the Convention.  The proposal takes note of best-practice seabird bycatch mitigation measures for trawl and demersal longline fisheries established by ACAP.

The proposed measure if adopted will aim to minimise the incidental interaction with seabirds in demersal longlines by demersal longline vessels implementing the combined use of the following measures:

Use of an appropriate line-weighting regime to maximise hook sink rates close to vessel sterns to reduce the availability of baits to seabirds;

Actively deterring birds from baited hooks by means of bird-scaring lines; and

Setting at night between the times of nautical twilight (as illustrated).

Best-practice seabird mitigation specifications proposed for trawl fishing include deployment of twin bird-scaring lines as well as avoiding discharges during both shooting and hauling.

The Albatross and Petrel Agreement will be represented at the meeting by its Executive Secretary, Warren Papworth.


New Zealand 2014.  Proposed Conservation and Management Measure for minimising bycatch of seabirds in the SPRFMO Convention AreaCOMM-02-08.  9 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 January 2014

Sexing albatrosses and petrels from faecal and tissue samples utilizing real time PCR assays

Cassandra Faux (Australian Antarctic Division) and colleagues present a method for sexing seabirds from tissue and faecal samples in the journal Theriogenology, tested on Black-browed Thalassarche melanophris and Shy T. cauta Albatrosses and Northern Macronectes halli and Southern M. giganteus Giant Petrels.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Sex identification of birds is of great interest in ecological studies, however this can be very difficult in many species because their external features are almost monomorphic between the sexes.  Molecular methodology has simplified this process but limitations still occur with widely accepted methods using PCR and gel electrophoresis, especially when applied to degraded DNA.  Real time PCR assays are emerging as a more efficient, sensitive and higher throughput means of identification, but there are very few techniques validated utilising faecal samples and small target sizes.  We present a real time melt curve analysis assay targeting a small region of the CHD-1 gene allowing for high-throughput, sensitive, specific and easy to interpret sexing results for a variety of southern ocean seabirds using faecal and tissue samples.”

Shy Albatrosses on Albatross Island, photographed by Rachael Alderman


Faux, C., McInnes, J.C. & Jarman, S.N. 2014.  High-throughput real time PCR and melt curve analysis for sexing southern ocean seabirds using faecal samples.  Theriogenology doi:10.1016/j.theriogenology.2013.12.021

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 January 2014

400 000 pairs of Sooty Shearwaters on two Chilean island groups considered worthy of National Park status

Paul Scofield (Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand) and Ronnie Reyes-Arriagada write in Revista de Biología Marina y Oceanografía on the numbers of Sooty Shearwaters Puffinus griseus on two Chilean island groups in the Cape Horn Archipelago region.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We documented the population size of Sooty Shearwater on the Wollaston and Hermite Island Groups.  A population of at least 100,000 pairs were found on Wollaston and there may be as many as 300,000 pairs in the Wollaston and Hermite Island Groups.  We also confirmed the presence of Magellanic Diving-petrel and Fuegian Storm-petrel in the Island Group and discussed the status of these taxa in southern Chile.  The status of the mammals found on these islands is also summarised and concerns are raised over the possibility that introduced mammals, especially beavers, muskrats, minks and feral cats may reach these pristine islands affecting seabird populations.”

The paper concludes:

“We recommend that the Chilean Government should give and enforce National Park status to these islands.  This would help to prevent illegal landings and allow monitoring of the islands, and also in the preparation of contingency plans against the invasion or introduction of unwanted predators.”

Sooty Shearwater, photographed by John Graham


Scofield, R.P. & Reyes-Arriagada, R. 2013.  A population estimate of the Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus in the Wollaston and Hermite Island Groups, Cape Horn Archipelago, Chile, and concerns over conservation in the area.  Revista de Biología Marina y Oceanografía 48: 623-628.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 January 2014

Northern and Southern Giant Petrels expected to “bounce back” on Macquarie Island following losses from the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project

Rachael Alderman (Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Hobart, Australia) writes in the latest on-line number of the Australian Antarctic Magazine on deaths from non-target poisoning, especially of ACAP-listed Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli, caused by the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP).

She describes “the impact of poison baiting on giant petrels, during the rabbit, rat and mouse eradication project on the island.  A 30% decline in the population of both northern and southern giant petrels has been observed, but there is optimism that populations will bounce back.”

Of a total of 2500 birds known to have died over the 2010 and 2011 bait drops, 760 were giant petrels with the ratio between Northerns and Southerns M. giganteus being 40:1.  Eighty percent of the giant petrels found dead were males, reflecting their more terrestrial feeding habits in comparison to females which feed more at sea.  The similar decline in numbers of Southern Giant Petrels, but with far fewer corpses found on the island, is suggested to be due to birds dying at sea.

Meanwhile MIPEP Manager Keith Springer reports to ACAP from Macca on the ongoing searches for any remaining rabbits and rodents on the island: “Feb[ruary] will be our last month for hunting fieldwork on Macquarie (where I am currently spending the summer) – with any luck we should be able to announce it as done at the end of March”.

Northern Giant Petrel, photographed by Marienne de Villiers

Click here to read the latest MIPEP Blog for last month on changes to Macca’s vegetation by Field Assistant Lachlan Francis.

Click on MIPEP to access 17 news stories in ACAP Latest News posted over the last three years on progress with the pest eradication project on Macquarie Island.


Alderman, R. 2013.  Managing the cost of pest eradication.  Australian Antarctic Magazine 25: 18-19.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 January 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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