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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Toroa, the colony’s 500th Northern Royal Albatross, returns to Taiaroa Head

Taiaroa Head supports New Zealand’s only mainland breeding colony of albatrosses, where ACAP-listed and Endangered Northern Royals Diomedea sanfordi may be viewed by the public.

Seven years  since he hatched in 2007 Taiaroa Head's 500th albatross chick has returned to the colony.  The bird has been named Toroa - the Maori word for albatross.  He is the son of Button, the last chick Grandma produced in 1989.  At 62 years of age Grandma was then the oldest recorded albatross in the World and was one of the first birds banded in the colony by Lance Richdale in 1938.

The 500th Northern Royal Albatross chick at Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula

Photograph by Lyndon Perriman

Toroa back at Taiaroa Head, photograph by Department of Conservation

“Department of Conservation ranger Lyndon Perriman said most royal northern albatross fledglings returned from their journey to their South American feeding grounds within four or five years, six at the outside.  He had initially been confident Toroa would return after a tracking device put on him and three others had shown he was still alive and feeding off the coast of South America 12 months later.”

Read more about Toroa in the Otago Daily Times for 5 February.

Twenty-four albatross chicks have hatched successfully this year at Taiaroa Head.

Selected Literature:

Peat, Neville 2011.  Seabird Genius: The Story of L.E. Richdale, the Royal Albatross, and the Yellow-eyed Penguin.  Dunedin: Otago University Press.  288 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 February 2014

ACAP’s Executive Secretary, Warren Papworth to present a seminar in the USA next week on that country becoming a Party to the Agreement

Warren Papworth, Executive Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels will next week give a lecture in the NOAA Central Library Brown Bag Seminar Series in Washington, D.C., USA on 27 February on the subject “Why the United States Should Join the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels”.

The lecture’s on-line abstract follows:

“The U.S. has played an active role in the work of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), participating in all of the preparatory meetings to negotiate the Agreement, as well as all the subsequent meetings held once the Agreement came into force in 2004.  Although President Bush transmitted the Agreement in 2008 (pdf) to the Senate for its advice and consent to accession, and the Departments of Commerce and the Interior submitted OMB-cleared proposed implementing legislation to Congress in 2009 (pdf), the United States has not yet become a party.

Fifteen of the 22 species of albatrosses are threatened with extinction, primarily due to high levels of mortality resulting from their bycatch in fishing operations.  Albatrosses are highly migratory species, with many having a circumpolar foraging range.  Consequently, it is not possible for one country alone to address this key threat, as it occurs not only in their territorial waters, but also on the high seas and in the territorial waters of other States.  It was for this reason that ACAP was established - to coordinate international action to address this threat.

The United States is a breeding Range State to the Agreement, having jurisdiction over the breeding sites for three species of albatrosses*.  In his presentation, Mr. Papworth will explain that the United States should join ACAP because it has demonstrated that it is an effective international organisation that has been successful in achieving conservation measures that will protect albatrosses outside the United States' jurisdiction e.g. in fisheries managed by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.”

The seminar is sponsored by the International Section of the NOAA Office of General Counsel.  It will be held from 12h00 – 13h00 in the NOAA Central Library, 2nd Floor, SSMC#3, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Shorty-tailed Albatross with chick in 2012 on USA's Midway Atoll

Photograph by Pete Leary

Click here for an earlier ACAP Latest News item on an on-line petition calling on the USA to become a Party to ACAP: now reached 3776 signatures.

*Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes, Laysan P. immutabilis and Short-tailed P. albatrus.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 February 2014

New study states plastic ingested by Flesh-footed Shearwaters is highest reported for any marine vertebrate

Jennifer Lavers (School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Victoria, Australia) and colleagues have published in the journal Environmental Pollution on plastic loads in fledgling Flesh-footed Shearwaters Puffinus carneipes.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“To provide much needed quantitative data on the lethal and sublethal effects of plastic pollution on marine wildlife, we sampled breast feathers and stomach contents from Flesh-footed Shearwater (Puffinus carneipes) fledglings in eastern Australia.  Birds with high levels of ingested plastic exhibited reduced body condition and increased contaminant load (p < 0.05).  More than 60% of fledglings exceed international targets for plastic ingestion by seabirds, with 16% of fledglings failing these targets after a single feeding (range: 0.13–3.21 g of plastic/feeding).  As top predators, seabirds are considered sentinels of the marine environment.  The amount of plastic ingested and corresponding damage to Flesh-footed Shearwater fledglings is the highest reported for any marine vertebrate, suggesting the condition of the Australian marine environment is poor.  These findings help explain the ongoing decline of this species and are worrying in light of increasing levels of plastic pollution in our oceans.”

Plastic removed from a Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Ian Hutton


Lavers, J.L., Bond, A.L. & Hutton, I. 2014.  Plastic ingestion by Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes): implications for fledgling body condition and the accumulation of plastic-derived chemicals.  Environmental Pollution 187: 124–129.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 February 2013

Wisdom, 63-year-old Laysan Albatross, hatches her latest egg

Wisdom the famous 63-year-old Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis of the Midway Atoll Wildlife Refuge has successfully hatched her egg on 4 February (click here).

“As the world’s oldest known bird in the wild, Wisdom is an iconic symbol of inspiration and hope for all seabird species” said Dan Clark, refuge manager for Midway.

Wisdom tends her latest chick, photograph by Ann Bell/USFWS

She laid her latest egg on 29 November 2013 - exactly a year and one day since she laid her egg in 2012.  Wisdom is thought to be the oldest banded wild bird in the World and has bred successfully every year on Sand Island in the refuge since at least 2008 (click here).

Wisdom is recognized by her red colour band Z333.   She was banded as an adult in 1956.  Last year her mate was marked with colour band G000, and he is back again for the 2013/14 season.  Remarkably Wisdom was videoed last year in the act of laying her egg (click here).

To read more ACAP news items about the exploits of Wisdom, and of the children’s book, mascot, poem, Facebook page and artwork she has inspired click here.

For more photos opf Wisom's recent breeding efforts click here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 February 2014

Bold females and shy males. Which personality is best for a Black-browed Albatross?

Samantha Patrick and Henri Weimerskirch (Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, France) write in the open-access journal PLoS ONE on how personality (measured on a bold-shy scale) is related to foraging behaviour in ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“While personality differences in animals are defined as consistent behavioural variation between individuals, the widely studied field of foraging specialisation in marine vertebrates has rarely been addressed within this framework.  However there is much overlap between the two fields, both aiming to measure the causes and consequences of consistent individual behaviour.  Here for the first time we use both a classic measure of personality, the response to a novel object, and an estimate of foraging strategy, derived from GPS data, to examine individual personality differences in black browed albatross and their consequences for fitness.  First, we examine the repeatability of personality scores and link these to variation in foraging habitat.  Bolder individuals forage nearer the colony, in shallower regions, whereas shyer birds travel further from the colony, and fed in deeper oceanic waters.  Interestingly, neither personality score predicted a bird’s overlap with fisheries.  Second, we show that both personality scores are correlated with fitness consequences, dependent on sex and year quality.  Our data suggest that shyer males and bolder females have higher fitness, but the strength of this relationship depends on year quality.  Females who forage further from the colony have higher breeding success in poor quality years, whereas males foraging close to the colony always have higher fitness.  Together these results highlight the potential importance of personality variation in seabirds and that the fitness consequences of boldness and foraging strategy may be highly sex dependent.”

Black-browed Albatrosses, photograph by Graham Robertson

Click here for a news article on this and a related publication.


Patrick, S.C. & Weimerskirch, H. 2014.  Personality, foraging and fitness consequences in a long lived seabird.  PLoS ONE 9(2): e87269. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087269.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 February 2014

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