Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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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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Counts of ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwaters on passage along the coast of Portugal


Location of observation points in 2019

The BirdLife partner, SPEA, has reported on the passage of nine seabird species, including the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, observed from five mainland sites along the coast of Portugal in 2019.

The report’s summary follows:

“Seabirds are a relatively small group of birds but they have a global reach as they occur in every marine environment around the world.  Due to their global abundance they are vital to understanding the status and ecology of marine environments.  In recent decades, their status has been put under serious threat due to a wide range of anthropogenic factors.  To better understand the seabirds ecology the RAM (Seabird and Marine Monitoring Network) census is used by Iberian researchers to collect data on seabirds in coastal areas.

This report refers to data collected during 2019 for the RAM census of Portugal. Census were carried out at 5 observation points -Praia da Vagueira, Cabo Carvoeiro, Cabo Raso, Cabo de São Vicente and Ilha do Farol. An observational effort of 116 hours was made, with Ilha do Farol having the highest observational time (36 hours) and Praia da Vagueira the lowest one (15 hours).

Data was collected to show monthly and annual passage rates (birds/hour) and also to carry out a behavioural analysis on the 9 target species: Razorbill (Alca torda), Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris borealis), Great Skua (Catharacta skua), Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus), Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra), Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), European Shag (Gulosus aristotelis), Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus) and Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis).  The observation point with the highest species diversity of seabirds was Praia da Vagueira (24 species), closely followed by Ilha do Farol (22 species).  The month with the highest passage rate was March (436.96 birds/hour) and the observation point was Cabo Raso with 382.09 birds/hour.”

Balearic Shearwater Pep Arcos

Balearic Shearwater at sea, photograph by Pep Arcos


Adlard, E. & Fagundes, A.I. 2020. Iberian Network for Seabirds and Marine Mammals - Portugal Mainland Counts during 2019.  Lisbon: Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves.  38 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 January 2020

Wandering Albatrosses in the South Atlantic vary in breeding success and population trends

Wandering Albatross Linda Clokie Shary Page Weckwerth

Wandering Albatross by Shary Page Weckwerth, from a photograph by Linda Clokie

 Carola Rackete (Biosciences, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Polar Biology on demographic variations in globally Vulnerable Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans breeding in the South Atlantic.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The wandering albatross, Diomedea exulans, is a globally threatened species breeding at a number of sites within the Southern Ocean.  Across the South Georgia archipelago, there are differences in population trends even at closely located colonies.  Between 1999 and 2018 the largest colony, at Bird Island, declined at 3.01% per annum, while in the Bay of Isles, the decline was 1.44% per annum.  Using mean demographic rates from a 31-year study at Bird Island and an 11-year study of breeding success at Prion Island in the Bay of Isles in a VORTEX model, we show that differences in breeding success do not fully explain observed differences in population trends.  Other potential contributing factors are differential use of foraging areas, with possible knock-on effects on adult body condition, provisioning rate and breeding success, or on bycatch rates of adults or immatures.”

With thanks to Richard Phillips.


Rackete, C., Poncet, S., Good, S.D., Phillips, R.A., Passmore, K. & Trathan, P. 2021.  Variation among colonies in breeding success and population trajectories of wandering albatrosses Diomedea exulans at South Georgia.  Polar Biology

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 January 2021

Staying away from home: Black Petrels are present at sea off Peru during summer

 Black Petrel flying 3 Kirk Zufelt

Black Petrel at sea, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

 Javier Quinones (Oficina de Investigaciones en Depredadores Superiores, Instituto del Mar del Perú, Callao, Perú) and colleagues have published in the journal Notornis on ACAP-listed and globally Vulnerable Black Petrels Procellaria parkinsoni observed in Peruvian waters.

A total of 47 Black Petrels was recorded during at-sea surveys off the coast of Peru during February and March 2020; nearly all over the continental slope.  The short note ends:

“As most adult black petrel[s] are nesting in New Zealand during this period, it is evident that part of the population at different age classes is spending their summers in northern Perú.  These birds are likely to be affected by different levels of risk associated with human-induced factors including fisheries bycatch, pollution events and climate change compared to those birds that migrate to breed in New Zealand.  Management measures such as the creation of a Marine Important Bird Area in the highly productive waters of Northern Perú and introducing mitigation measures to fisheries vessels could help protect this vulnerable New Zealand species whenever they are present in the region.”

With thanks to Roger Sharp, Web Support, Birds New Zealand.


Quinones, J., Calderon, J., Mayaute, L. & Bell, E. 2020.  Black petrel (Procellaria parkinsoni) congregations at sea off Perú during the Austral summer.  Notornis 67: 573-576.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 January 2021

ACAP loses a friend with the passing of Robert Vagg last week

 Robert Vagg

Robert Vagg, 1961-2021, photograph by Martin Wein

Robert Vagg, friend and supporter of ACAP, and long-term English language Editor and Report Writer in the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), passed away unexpectedly in Bonn, Germany on 13 January, just three days before his 60th birthday (click here).

ACAP’s Information Officer first met Robert at the Seventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CMS held in Bonn in Germany in September 2002 which he was attending on the BirdLife International delegation as the NGO’s Coordinator of its (then) Seabird Conservation Programme.  Robert was on the UK Delegation as  International Conservation Policy Adviser, Zoos and International Species Conservation, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs  (DEFRA).  This was a time between the signing of the Albatross and Petrel Agreement in 2001 and its adoption in 2004, so the conservation of albatrosses was on the agenda, with a mention in a message to the COP from H.R.H the Prince of Wales (himself a noted supporter of albatross conservation) calling on the international community to ratify and implement the Agreement as soon as possible.  In conversation it was clear that Robert also had a personal interest in the conservation of albatrosses and petrels and in the development of ACAP.

Robert joined the CMS Secretariat in 2005.  Ever since then, and most recently late last month, he regularly contacted the ACAP Secretariat with news of and links to popular articles and scientific papers he had come across that were of relevance to the work of the Agreement.  Many of these “heads-up” resulted in posts to ACAP Latest News, the most recent on the first of January this year, accompanied by his season’s greetings and a message for all the best for 2021.

Mark Tasker, current Convenor of ACAP’s Taxonomy Working Group (and past Chair of the Advisory Committee) knew Robert Vagg well as a friend and past colleague at DEFRA.  He writes of Robert to ACAP Latest News: “My main memory will always be of his very dry sense of humour and inability to take any incompetent seniors seriously.  He also adopted that great catch-phrase from the TV series (UK version) of House of Cards ‘You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment’ to fit a number of situations.”

Robert Vagg leaves his parents and a brother.  ACAP extends its condolences to them, and to all his past and present colleagues within the Bonn Convention and in the United Kingdom.

With thanks to Mark Tasker.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 January 2021.

Oli Yates rejoins Birdlife International’s Marine Programme as its new head

Oli Yates Tristan 2 

Oli Yates on Tristan da Cunha, with Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses in the background

The BirdLife International Marine Programme was led from 2013 by Cleo Small (now Cunningham), who left last year to become Deputy Head, Conserving Land and Seascapes for the UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre.  Her position has now been taken by Oliver (Oli) Yates, who previously was a Senior Marine Science Advisor at the UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).  Before then he had spent a decade working with BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force, firstly as Coordinator based in Chile, and then as Programme Manager, based in the UK.

Oli Yates writes to ACAP Latest News:

“I am delighted to be joining the BirdLife International Marine Programme, returning to my roots after three years supporting development of marine protection strategies and RFMO engagement under the UK Government's Blue Belt Programme.  The Birdlife International Marine Programme has a well-established team dedicated to the conservation of threatened seabirds and the marine habitats and ecosystems they rely on.  The Programme focuses on reducing multiple threats to vulnerable seabirds through i) grass-roots projects and fishery sector engagement to develop and implement seabird bycatch mitigation measures in target fisheries, and ii) marine science to inform national, regional and global marine policy decisions - particularly through provision of strong spatial and temporal evidence to demonstrate the most important places for seabirds and associated biodiversity."

"The Marine Programme is managed on behalf of BirdLife by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and conducted through the BirdLife network of NGOs and collaborating in-country organisations.  Our work is possible thanks to generous support from the RSPB membership, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, MAVA Foundation, and Fondation Segré, amongst other international funds.   We have always worked closely with the ACAP Secretariat and Parties to support activities that mitigate threats to ACAP-listed seabird populations and I very much look forward to continuing that collaboration.”

Oli Yates has a MSc in Geographical Information Systems from the University of Southampton.  Click here for a listing of scientific papers co-authored by Oli on seabird bycatch mitigation.

With thanks to Oli Yates.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 January 2021