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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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2024 predicted to be an ‘average’ year for Wedge-tailed Shearwaters in the Freeman Seabird Preserve despite record number of active nests

Hawaii Pacific University students Freeman Seabird Reserve Hyrenbach Shearwater Study 2024From the paper: Figure 1. Hawai‘i Pacific University students weigh ‘Ua‘u kani chicks to study phenology, chick growth, and reproductive success.

David Hyrenbach (Hawai‘i Pacific University) and Alyssa Piauwasdy (Hawai‘i Pacific University & Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge) study Wedge-tailed Shearwaters or 'Ua'u kani Ardenna pacificaLeast Concern) in the Freeman Seabird Preserve on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. They write of the most recent breeding season in the Hawaii Audubon Society journal ‘Elepaio’:

"2023 Update

With participation of over 20 volunteers, we counted the number of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Ardenna pacifica) nesting at the Freeman Seabird Preserve during the incubation (July 14) and early chick-rearing (September 14) periods. In July, we documented 427 active nests, which is the highest count to date and surpasses the previous peak of 423 nests observed in 2022 (Hyrenbach & Piauwasdy 2023). Overall, the annual population counts continue to show a statistically significant trend (F = 395.939; df = 1, 13; p <0.001), with an average increase of 24.7 (+/- 4.8 S.D.) nests per year, which captures 97 % of the variability in the 15-year time series (2009 - 2023; Fig. 2). This trend suggests that the colony continues to grow, in part due to the collaborative restoration efforts.

Wedgie James Campbell Pacific Rim ConserevationA Wedge-tailed Shearwater; photograph courtesy of Pacific Rim Conservation

 Ongoing Efforts

The 2024 winter marks the second year of a tracking and tag effects study to determine where in the big Pacific Ocean the ‘ua‘u kani migrate and spend winter, after leaving FSP in late November. In August 2022, we tagged 25 adults with a geolocator (GLS) tag mounted on a USFWS metal band. In April 2023, we retrieved 24 out of 25 tags (96% recovery rate), gathering over 5,700 days of data that revealed their at- sea movements. We tagged an additional 30 adults in August 2023 to learn about ‘ua‘u kani post-breeding movements during the El Niño. We will retrieve these GLS tags starting in April 2024, along with the one remaining GLS from the 2022-23 winter.


Starting in April 2024, we will check returning adult shearwaters to retrieve the GLS tags and to resight the tagged and control birds. With the second year of tracking underway, we are currently analyzing the 2022-23 winter data and developing statistical models to understand the oceanographic drivers of shearwater winter habitat. By comparing shearwater movements during the past La Niña (2022-23) and the current El Niño (2023-24), we seek to understand how changing oceanographic conditions influence the timing of their migration and their over- wintering destinations. Population censusing and nest monitoring for phenology, chick growth, and reproductive success will continue in 2024, to augment our 15-year time series."

Read more on the 2023 breeding season here.


Hyrenbach, K.D. & Piauwasdy, A. 2023.  Shearwater nesting at Freeman Seabird Preserve: ‘Ua‘u kani cope with El Niño conditions. ‘Elepaio’ 84(2): 12-14.

01 April 2024

A review of wildlife census guidelines using drones or satellites published

ACAP Guidelines remotesensing Attard PaperFigure 1 from the paper shows examples of wildlife detected in satellite and unmanned aircraft system (UAS) imagery. (a) VHR satellites can be used to count individual animals provided that they meet key detection criteria: in an open habitat, of suitable size, and of contrasting colour to the background. For instance, African elephants are visible in open savannahs using 31 cm resolution WorldView-3 imagery [14]. (b) Indirect counts can be performed for species which are not directly detectable; for example, colony sizes of emperor penguins can be estimated from the colony area or the extent of guano staining using 10 m resolution Sentinel-2 satellite imagery [15]. (c) Spectral imagery collected by UAS is typically of higher resolution than that of satellite sensors, enabling counts of smaller animals, such as black-browed albatrosses, in open habitats [16]. (d) For species in closed-cover habitats, for instance, koalas in tree canopy (shown in yellow box), thermal cameras mounted on UAS can aid detection [17]. All panels are cropped versions of the originals and are reproduced under CC BY 4.0 licenses.

Marie R. G. Attard (British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, Cambridge, UK) and colleagues have published open access in the journal, Remote Sensing, Census Guidelines using drones or satellites. 

The paper, which was discussed at the 7th Meeting of the Albatross and Petrel Agreement’s Population and Conservation Status Working Group, provides an introduction for wildlife biologists and managers relatively new to the field on how to implement remote-sensing techniques (satellite and unoccupied aircraft systems) for counting large vertebrates on land, including marine predators that return to land to breed, haul out or roost, to encourage wider application of these technological solutions.

A link to the article is also available on the ACAP website via the Conservation Guidelines page

The abstract follows:

“Although many medium-to-large terrestrial vertebrates are still counted by ground or aerial surveys, remote-sensing technologies and image analysis have developed rapidly in recent decades, offering improved accuracy and repeatability, lower costs, speed, expanded spatial coverage and increased potential for public involvement. This review provides an introduction for wildlife biologists and managers relatively new to the field on how to implement remote-sensing techniques (satellite and unoccupied aircraft systems) for counting large vertebrates on land, including marine predators that return to land to breed, haul out or roost, to encourage wider application of these technological solutions. We outline the entire process, including the selection of the most appropriate technology, indicative costs, procedures for image acquisition and processing, observer training and annotation, automation, and citizen science campaigns. The review considers both the potential and the challenges associated with different approaches to remote surveys of vertebrates and outlines promising avenues for future research and method development.”


Attard, M.R.G., Phillips, R.A., Bowler, E., Clarke, P.J., Cubaynes, H., Johnston, D.W., Fretwell, P.T. 2024. Review of Satellite Remote Sensing and Unoccupied Aircraft Systems for Counting Wildlife on Land. Remote Sensing

28 March 2024

A ten-day-old Northern Royal Albatross chick succumbs to ingested plastic

2chick plastic death 2A Northern Royal Albatross chick in ICU after eating plastic, photograph by the Wildlife Hospital

A 10-day old Endangered Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi chick has died while under care in the Wildlife Hospital in Dunedin after it swallowed soft plastic that had been regurgitated to it by its parent at Taiaroa Head/Pukekura, South Island, New Zealand.  The soft but tough plastic was discovered during necropsy to have caused an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, which ultimately led to starvation and organ failure.

chick plastic death 5Plastic (and squid beaks) found in the regurgitation of an albatross chick, photograph by the Department of Conservation

Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Sharyn Broni said it was the first death of its kind at the Taiaroa Head colony, but rangers had feared something like this could happen after other close calls in recent years.

“This heartbreaking incident is a reminder it's vital to dispose of plastic rubbish carefully.  People can also help by picking up litter they see on beaches, near waterways, or out on the ocean. Every piece you pick up could save a seabird's life.”

Northern Royal Albatross chick plastic pony Theo Thompson
My Little Pony”, photograph by Theo Thompson

In May 2021, a 9-cm-long plastic pony toy, which had been regurgitated by a parent, was found in a chick's nest.  Fortunately, in that case the chick did not swallow it, Broni said.

"DOC staff found plastic in almost all the [albatross] chick regurgitations checked last season.  The most common plastics seen were bottlecaps, however items like a plastic syringe were also found.”

Read more on the hatchling's death.  Previous plastic items in addition to the pony toy found associated with Taiaroa Head’s albatrosses have included bottle caps, squid lures, fishing floats, a container tab and the handle of an infant formula scoop.

Plastic pollution was the theme for last year’s World Albatross Day (WAD2023) on 19 June.

John Cooper, Emeritus Information Officer, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, 28 March 2024

154th American Fisheries Conference: call for abstracts

AFS makau updated 2048x1936

Abstract submission has opened for the 154th American Fisheries Conference under the theme, “Conserving Fishes and Fishing Traditions through Knowledge Co-Production”. 

The conference, which is co-hosted by the Western Division and the Pacific Islands Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, is taking place 15 – 19 September 2024 in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

The program contains a broad variety of sessions, “focusing on the past, present, and future of fisheries conservation and management”.

Of particular note to ACAP is Session SP-11: Managing fisheries bycatch of threatened species, organised by Eric Gilman, Fisheries Research Group, The Safina Center.

“Fisheries targeting highly productive species can have profound impacts on co-occurring species also susceptible to capture that have long generation lengths, low fecundity and other life history traits that make them vulnerable to anthropogenic mortality. There has been increasing concern over the sustainability of bycatch mortality of marine megafauna given their vulnerability to exploitation, ecosystem-level cascading effects from declines in abundance and reduced population fitness from fisheries-induced evolution. There has also been increasing attention to risks from bycatch to food, nutrition and livelihood security. The session’s presentations and discussion will cover priority topics in fisheries bycatch science and policy.”

The deadline for abstract submission is 26 April 2024, and registration for the conference will open in April.

For more information about the conference including the program, travel details and abstract submission, please see the conference website, here.

27 March 2024

Wisdom, the world’s oldest known Laysan Albatross, still has it – engaging in mutual displays into her 70s

Wisdom displays 18 March 2024 Nick Minnich 1Wisdom (right) displays with another Laysan Albatross, 18 March 2024

Wisdom, a Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge’s Sand Island, is the world’s oldest known wild bird.  Now into her 70s, she was sighted wearing her now well-known plastic leg band red Z333 on 18 March 2024, engaging in mutual displays with other Laysan Albatrosses at her former nest site.

“Wisdom was previously last sighted in January 2024 in search of a new mate after her former mate did not return during the early winter 2023 breeding season.  It is extremely unlikely that she will find that one and only “mature” mate so late in the 2024 nesting season but it is not for lack of trying! She truly is one of the grandest of grandmothers in the animal kingdom.”

On 24 and 25 December 2023 Wisdom was seen displaying with an unbanded male, she was first recorded for the 2023/24 breeding season on 03 December last year.  Her last partner, named Akeakamai, has not been seen this and in the two previous seasons and is likely to be no longer alive (click here).  Let’s hope she can find a new mate in the 2024/25 season and breeds once more.

Wisdom displays 18 March 2024 Nick Minnich 2Wisdom (centre) displays with three other Laysan Albatrosses, 18 March 2024
Photographs by Nick Minnich, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Volunteer

View Wisdom's latest photo shoot by Nick Minnich.  News from the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.  Access the many previous posts about Wisdom  in ACAP Latest News from here.

John Cooper, Emeritus Information Officer, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, 26 March 2024

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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