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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New Zealand’s World Albatross Day banner is photographed with Buller’s Albatrosses on the Snares Islands

Albatross Day banner at The Snares Mar 2020 

A 'WAD2020' banner on The Snares with Buller's Albatrosses.  From left: David Thompson, Paul Sagar and David Sagar (in front)

The now well-travelled World Albatross Day banner made by Graham Parker and Kalinka Rexer-Huber of the environmental consultancy Parker Conservation made it to New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Snares Islands last month.

Following the banner’s return with Graham and Kalinka from its successful outing to the Auckland Islands, David Sagar (DOC), Paul Sagar (NIWA) and David Thompson (NIWA) displayed it at one of the long-established study colonies of globally Near Threatened and nationally Naturally Uncommon Southern Buller's Albatrosses Thalassarche b. bulleri on North East Island in the Snares group.

‘WAD2020’ banners have now been displayed on most of New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands, as well as on Three Kings Islands situated north of New Zealand where the Northern Buller’s Albatross T. b. platei has a small breeding population (and where the same banner made a quick visit in February).

Paul Sagar writes to ACAP Latest News: “In addition to displaying the banner, a highlight of the trip was finding a 48-year old Southern Buller's Albatross that had been banded as a chick in 1972 by Don Horning.  The bird was occupying an empty nest, the same one that it has occupied for the last 25 or so years that I have been recapturing it.  It was last on an egg in March 2019.  The bird was originally banded on a nest in the same area where it now itself breeds.  Measurements of it that I took in the 1990s indicate that it is a female.”

An even older Southern Buller’s recaptured by Paul on The Snares back in 1993 was estimated as 57 years old (click here).

Bullers Albatross Paul Sagar Shary Page Weckwerth

Buller's Albatross, artwork for Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature by Shary Page Weckwerth from a photograph by Paul Sagar

Paul has also offered his personal support for WAD2020: “Albatrosses nest on some of the most remote islands of the world and travel the High Seas far from land.  Yet they still suffer from the effects of a range of human activities that threaten their existence.  A World Albatross Day is an excellent way to raise awareness of the plight of these iconic seabirds.” .

With thanks to Shary Page Weckwerth (ABUN wildlife artist), Graham Parker (Parker Conservation) and Paul Sagar ( retired, Marine Ecology Group, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research; NIWA).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 April 2020

UPDATED. Expedition to satellite track Antipodean Albatrosses from Antipodes Island cut short due to COVID-19

Antipodean Albatross Colin ODonnell Diana L Andersen 

Antipodean Albatross by Diana L. Andersen, colouring-in drawing from a photograph (see below) by Colin O'Donnell

UPDATE:  The research team left the island early after only a week ashore, due to issues related to the COVID-19 virus.  However, Kath Walker reports to ACAP Latest News that it  was still possible to fit trackers to 40 Antipodean Albatrosses.

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New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) scientists Graeme Elliott and Kath Walker are visiting Antipodes Island for the next six weeks to attach GPS satellite transmitters to the nominate subspecies (endemic to the island) of the globally Endangered and Nationally Critical Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis.  The transmitters will track the birds at sea to ascertain where they go and where they may encounter fishing vessels.

“The [nominate] Antipodean Albatross population has declined by two thirds over the last fifteen years from around 16 000 breeding birds to 6000.  The major threat to these birds is being accidentally caught by longline fishing vessels, mainly on the high seas, outside New Zealand waters.  The female population is being affected more severely than the males.  Oceanic changes are thought to have driven the females to forage [farther] north and east of New Zealand, pushing them into waters where they are at greater risk from international longline fishing fleets.”

Live Ocean, a marine conservation charity partnered with the Southern Seabirds Solutions Trust, has raised NZ$70 000 to help pay for the satellite trackers, increasing the number of transmitters that Fisheries New Zealand and DOC have provided.

“Satellite trackers on albatrosses can pinpoint the exact location (within a few metres) of the bird in near real-time.  The birds can be monitored via the albatross tracker app which was developed by DOC and FNZ.  Their flight paths can be overlaid with the activity of individual fishing vessels to identify those posing most risk of bycatch”.

The Antipodean Albatross is listed on Appendices I and II of the Convention for Migratory Species.  The Antipodes Island nominate population has been recognised since 2017 as a population of conservation concern by ACAP.

Read more about the expedition here.

Antipodean Albatross 3 Adams Island Colin ODonnell

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 March 2020, updated 05 April 2020

An estimated 340 pairs of Northern Giant Petrels breed on New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Islands

NGPs Diasappointment Island Graham Parker 

A Northern Giant Petrel breeding site on Disappointment Island, Auckland Islands, photograph by Graham Parker

Graham Parker (Parker Conservation, Dunedin, New Zealand) and colleagues have published in the journal Notornis on the population size of Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli on the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“This first breeding population estimate of northern giant petrels (Macronectes halli) in the Auckland Islands group involved whole-island censuses, apart from the main Auckland Island, in the 2015-16 breeding season, and multi-year repeat visits to a subset of island colonies.  Parallel line-transects in giant petrel habitat were used to survey the number and spatial distribution of pre-fledging chicks.  The Auckland Islands 2015-16 whole-island census resulted in a count of 216 northern giant petrel chicks on eight of the 15 islands in the group.  Applying a simple correction factor, the breeding population in 2015 is estimated as c. 340 breeding pairs (range 310–390).  This estimate is higher than historical non-quantitative records of 50–200 breeding pairs.  Multi-year counts on Enderby, Rose, Frenchs, Ocean, Disappointment, and Adams Islands showed some inter-annual variability, but other island colonies remained more stable.  The northern giant petrel colony on Enderby Island has increased from two chicks in 1988 to 96–123 chicks in 2015–18 (four annual counts undertaken).”

This publication forms part of a compilation of 19 papers appearing in a special issue of the journal Notornis of Birds New Zealand that covers many aspects of the avifauna of the Auckland Islands. The special issue is also being made available as a 436-page book with the title Lost Gold: Ornithology of the subantarctic Auckland Islands.  Edited by Colin Miskelly and Craig Symes, it can be ordered for purchase (click here).  An interview with the two editors gives information about their work with the book. Click here to access abstracts for all 19 papers.

With thanks to Graham Parker and Kalinka Rexer-Huber, Parker Conservation.

Reference:

Parker, G.C., French, R.K., Muller, C.G., Taylor, G.A. & Rexer-Huber, K. 2020.  First northern giant petrel (Macronectes halli) breeding population survey and estimate for the Auckland Islands, New Zealand.  Notornis 67: 357-368.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 April 2020

The Chinese Wild Bird Federation supports World Albatross Day 2020

CWBF 

Established in 1988, the Chinese Wild Bird Federation (CWBF) became an official partner of BirdLife International in 1996.  Representing 21 different conservation organizations throughout Chinese Taipei, its total membership numbers around 5500.  The CWBF’s purpose is to protect wild birds and their habitats through research, conservation, and outreach.  The group achieves these goals through the four main areas of influencing policy, research and citizen science, education and outreach, and international collaboration.  The CWBF and its partner organizations are responsible for successes including the conservation of the Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill.  They also work on a number of studies and citizen-science related projects.

Since the early 2000s, the CWBF has worked with the BirdLife International Marine Programme towards the goal of albatross and petrel conservation.  This has come in the form of holding three international workshops to discuss best practices for mitigation of seabird mortality by fisheries in Kaohsiung in 2013  and 2019 and in Taipei in 2018, and helping to translate ACAP documents into both Traditional and Simplified Chinese versions.  The CWBF also helped organize and coordinate Port-based Outreach (PBO) activities with Taiwanese vessel captains in Port Louis, Mauritius in both 2016 and 2018.  There, PBO instructors were able to visit captains and vessel owners to learn about the currently used mitigation measures onboard, share the most recent ACAP best practices, and provide the newest information regarding mitigation for pelagic longline fishing vessels.

Scott Pursner during an outreach activity with co workers Bella Chiou and Sandy Lin

From left: Bella Choiu, Scott Pursner and Sandy Lin, photograph courtesy of the Chinese Wild Bird Federation

The CWBF’s Director of International Affairs, Scott Pursner writes to ACAP Latest News in support of World Albatross Day:

“Albatross and petrel species are extremely important members of marine ecosystems, yet many people rarely see them due the fact that they often live far from human settlements.  This is the case here, where it is not common to see an albatross.  But as members of the global community, we know that our actions have direct impacts on these at-risk species.  The CWBF is committed to doing its part to help conservation efforts.  Through a combination of outreach and education, working with local industry and government, and assisting with scientific study, it is our hope that we can do our part in this important work.  It is with that in mind that we are so happy to support World Albatross Day!”

Click here for a related meeting on seabird bycatch held in Chinese Taipei.

Reference:

Pursner, S. 2019.  In search of a better bird scaring line.  Feather 32(3): 17-21 [in both English and Chinese].

Scott Pursner, Director of International Affairs, The Chinese Wild Bird Federation, 04 April 2020

Introduced cats, rats, pigs and owls are killing Hawaiian Petrels and Newell’s Shearwaters

kNewells cat kill 

A Hawaiian Petrel chick is removed from its burrow by a feral cat.  Game camera photograph courtesy of the Kauaʻi Endangered Seabird Recovery Project

André Raine (Kauaʻi Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, Kauai, Hawaii, USA) and colleagues have published in the Journal of Wildlife Management on the depredations of Newell's Shearwaters Puffinus newelli and Hawaiian Petrels Pterodroma sandwichensis by introduced predators on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Introduced predators are one of the greatest threats facing seabirds worldwide.  We investigated the effects of multiple introduced predators on 2 endangered seabirds, the Newell's shearwater (Puffinus newelli) and the Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis), on the island of Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi, USA.  Between 2011 and 2017, we recorded 309 depredations of which 35.6% were by feral cats, 50.2% by black rats (Rattus rattus), 10.4% by pigs (Sus scrofa; feral pigs), and 3.9% by barn owls (Tyto alba).  Cats were the most destructive of the predators because they killed more breeding adults than chicks, which had repercussions on breeding probability in following years.  Cats and rats were also the most prevalent of all the predators, depredating birds at all of the sites under consideration regardless of how remote or inaccessible.  We also considered the effectiveness of predator control over the study period. Reproductive success at all sites increased once predator control operations were in place and depredations by all species except barn owls decreased.  Furthermore, we modeled population trajectories for all sites with and without predator control.  Without predator control, population trajectories at all sites declined rapidly over 50 years. With predator control operations in place, populations at all sites increased; thus, controlling introduced predators at endangered seabird colonies is important for their management.”

Read a popular account of the publication.

With thanks to André Raine.

Reference:

Raine, A.F., Driskill, S., Vynne. M., Harvey, D. & Pias, K. 2020.  Managing the effects of introduced predators on Hawaiian endangered seabirds.  Journal of Wildlife Management 84: 425-435. doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.21824.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 April 2020

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