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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“Shy-type” albatrosses attending trawlers in the south-western Atlantic: updating at-sea records and their interaction with fisheries

Shy Thalassarche cauta and White-capped T. steadi Albatrosses are two taxa for which specific status has recently been postulated; however, owing to their close morphological resemblance they are frequently referred to as “shy-type” albatrosses.  White-capped Albatross, a New Zealand breeding endemic, is well known in South American seas, particularly in the Humboldt Current.  Conversely, Shy Albatross, an Australian breeding endemic, is less pelagic than many other albatrosses, although its range extends to southern Africa.  Both albatross species are listed as Near Threatened, due to their high mortality rates as a result of interactions with longline and trawl fisheries in southern Indian and south-eastern Atlantic Oceans.

Shy-type albatrosses have been previously recorded in the south-western Atlantic region in Brazilian waters, and later on onto the north and north-west of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  However, these records do not come from observations made on board fishing vessels or from land-based interviews with fishers.  Birds, chiefly juvenile and non-breeding adults, have been recently recorded interacting with commercial longline fisheries off the Argentine-Uruguayan Common Fishing Zone and being caught by this fishery as well as off southern Brazil.

More recently, shy-type albatrosses have been recorded attending high-seas trawlers in Patagonian waters off Argentina.  Over the period 2008 to 2011 22 sightings of shy-type albatrosses comprising up to 49 individuals were made from these trawlers, chiefly between 39ºS to 44°S and 55ºW to 60ºW.  The records collated so far indicate (1) that shy-type albatrosses may be more widely distributed in the region that previously thought, and (2) that the Patagonian Shelf may be an important foraging area for these species.

 A shy-type albatross attending a high-seas trawler off Argentina, 07 June 2010

Photograph by Juan Pablo Seco Pon

The support of ACAP Parties such as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and the United Kingdom in conducting at-sea surveys has enabled a better understanding of the global ranges of threatened or potentially threatened species of albatrosses and petrels and this work needs to be continued as our knowledge of many species’ foraging ranges is still incomplete.

Click here for a related ACAP news item on “Shy-type” albatrosses in South American waters.

Selected Literature:

Baker, G.B., Double, M.C., Gales, R., Tuck, G.N., Abbott, C.L., Ryan, P.G., Petersen, S.L., Robertson, C.J.R. & Alderman, R. 2007.  A global assessment of the impact of fisheries-related mortality on Shy and White-capped Albatrosses: conservation implications.  Biological Conservation 137: 319-333.

Brothers, N., Gales, R., Hedd, A. & Robertson, G. 1998.  Foraging movements of the Shy Albatross Diomedea cauta breeding in Australia; implications for interactions with longline fisheries.  Ibis 140: 446-457.

Gianuca, D., Peppes, F.V. & Neves, T. 2011.  New records of “shy-type” albatrosses Thalassarche steadi/cauta in Brazil.  Revista Brasileria de Ornitologia.

Hedd, A. & Gales, R. 2005.  Breeding and overwintering ecology of Shy Albatrosses in southern Australia: year-round patterns of colony attendance and foraging-trip durations.  Condor.

Jiménez, S., Domingo, A., Marquez, A., Abreu, M., D´Anatro, A. & Pereira, A. 2009.  Interactions of long-line fishing with seabirds in the western Atlantic Ocean, with a focus on White-capped Albatrosses (Thalassarche steadi).  Emu.

Marin, M. 2011.  Distributional notes on the Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta): its presence off South American in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans.  Notornis 58: 101-103.

Petry, M.V., Bencke, G.A. & Klein, G.N. 1991.  First record of Shy Albatross Diomedea cauta for the Brazilian coast.  Bulletin of the British Ornithologists´ Club 111: 189.

Phalan, B., Phillips, R.A. & Double, M.C. 2004.  A White-capped Albatross, Thalassarche (cauta) steadi, at South Georgia: first confirmed record in the south-western Atlantic.  Emu.

Seco Pon, J.P. & Tamini, L. 2013.  New records of shy-type albatrosses Thalassarche cauta/T. steadi off the Argentine Continental Shelf.  Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia.

White, R.W., Gillon, K.W., Black, A.D. & Reid, J.B. 2002.  The Distribution of Seabirds and Marine Mammals in the Falkland Islands Waters. Peterborough: Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Juan Pablo Seco Pon, ACAP South American News Correspondent, 11 February 2014

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

The South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation adopts a measure to mitigate seabird bycatch in longline and trawl fisheries

The Second Commission Meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) was held last month in Manta, Ecuador (click here).  ACAP was represented at the meeting by its Executive Secretary, Warren Papworth.

A conservation and management measure (COMM-02-08) for minimising the bycatch of seabirds in the SPRFMO convention area was proposed for consideration at the meeting by the Government of New Zealand.

The Commission subsequently adopted a conservation and management measure (CMM 2.04) based on the New Zealand proposal (click here for the meeting’s report).  CMM 2.04 substantially reflects ACAP’s best-practice advice for minimising seabird bycatch in demersal longline and trawl fisheries and the adoption of this CMM by the SPRFMO Commission is warmly welcomed.

The Commission also requested its Secretariat to explore the possibility of a memorandum of understanding on data exchange with ACAP.

The South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation is an intergovernmentalorganisation 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.

Warren Papworth, ACAP Executive Secretary, 10 February 2014

Seawatching for Balearic Shearwaters and other seabirds from Cabo Carvoeiro, Portugal

Johan Elmberg (Aquatic Biology and Chemistry, Kristianstad University, Sweden) and colleagues write in Seabird, the journal of the Seabird Group on the numbers of Critically Endangered and ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus and other seabirds seen from a Portuguese headland.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The ecology and movements of seabirds are still inadequately understood, mainly because they can rarely be studied efficiently from land.  The potential of Cabo Carvoeiro (Peniche, Portugal) for monitoring seabird movements from land is poorly known internationally, as few results from this site have been published in English.  Here we present data from standardised counts in October 2012 and draw attention to recent organised seabird counts in Portugal.  Despite unfavourable weather conditions for concentrating seabirds towards land, we observed a strong passage of Northern Gannet Morus bassanus, Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea, Great Skua Stercorarius skua, and Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus (mean morning passage of 252, 99, 19, and 21 birds / hour, respectively).  Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus, Sooty Shearwater P. griseus and Great Shearwater P. gravis occurred regularly in low numbers.  Extrapolation indicates that thousands of seabirds passed daily within a few kilometres from land.  The high counts of some species and the fairly high species diversity observed by us and in the RAM (Rede de observação de Aves e Mamiferos marinhos) initiative show that Cabo Carvoeiro is an outstanding site for monitoring and studying seabirds in the eastern Atlantic, as it is also located further south in the flyway than most other seawatch points.  We hope this note will inspire ornithologists from other countries to participate in standardised seabird counts at Cabo Carvoeiro and other Portuguese sites.”

Balearic Shearwater, photograph by Miguel McMinn

Reference:

Elmberg, J., Hirschfeld, E. & Cardoso, H. 2013.  Diurnal seabird movements at Cabo Carvoeiro (Peniche, Portugal): observations in early October 2012.  Seabird 26: 24-30.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 February 2014

Studying the Balearic Shearwater population of Sa Dragonera Island

Greg Morgan (RSPB, Ramsey Island, UK) and colleagues write in Seabird, the journal of the Seabird Group on the population of the Critically Endangered and ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus on Sa Dragonera Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus is a Critically Endangered species endemic to the Balearic Islands, subject to a severe decline that could lead to the extinction of the species within three generations (Oro et al. 200).  Predation by introduced mammals is considered the main threat facing the species at its breeding grounds, and therefore conservation action is required along with subsequent monitoring in a species where such information is lacking.  In order to assess the long-term impact of a rodent eradication project on the breeding success of the species on Sa Dragonera island, a series of study plots were established in April 2013.  A survey was carried out to establish the minimum number of known Apparently Occupied Sites (AOS) within each plot.  All potential nest sites within each plot were sampled for the presence of a bird(s) using a combination of methods: (i) tape playback, (ii) physical sighting (by eye or with an endoscope) and (iii) obvious signs of occupation. 33 AOS in 12 study plots were identified.  This project was not a whole island estimate; rather it led to the establishment of a series of repeatable study plots, providing reference estimates of breeding pairs in defined areas on the island to enable monitoring of future changes in the population size following predator removal.”

Balearic Shearwater, photographed by Daniel Oro

Reference:

Morgan, G., McMinn, M., Wynn, R., Meier, R., Maurice, L., Sevilla, B., Rodriguez, A. & Guilford, T. 2013.  Establishing repeatable study plots on Sa Dragonera, Mallorca to assess population trends of the local breeding Balearic Shearwaters Puffinus mauretanicusSeabird 26: 32-41.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 February 2014

Short-tailed Albatross pair at the Mukojima translocation colony fails to hatch an egg for a second season

“Last season a pair of endangered Short-tailed Albatrosses Phoebastria albatrus (STAL) produced an egg for the first time at a prospective new breeding ground on an uninhabited island.  Researchers examining the egg found that it was infertile.  Expert analysis continues to determine reasons for failure to successfully hatch an egg at the new breeding site.

Short-tailed Albatross pair attempts to incubate their apparently infertile egg, Mukojima, Ogasawara Islands, November, 2013

The Japanese Ministry of Environment, Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, and other participants are attempting to establish the new breeding site at Mukojima, Ogasawara Islands, 350 kilometres away from the current breeding site at Torishima, Izu Islands because of the danger of annihilation of the breeding colony by volcanic eruption on Torishima.  Last November a surveillance camera installed by NHK and Yamashina Institute on Mukojima confirmed that a nesting STAL pair had again produced an egg.

When the egg failed to hatch on the day predicted early this month, researchers land[ed] on the island to examine the egg, [and] found it to be spoiled.  The year before last this same pair produced the first egg on Mukojima, but it failed to hatch, apparently being infertile (click here).

Since this season’s egg again did not contain a chick embryo, it appears not to have been fertilized.  Yamashina Deputy Director General Kyoaki Ozaki commented, “This is a young pair that we think may not yet have developed compatible breeding rhythms.  Considering that the female has a different ancestry from the Torishima population, we next have to investigate the influence of ecological differences.”

Kyoaki Ozaki writes to ACAP: “Unfortunately, the egg laid last December did not hatch.  [Tomohiro] Deguchi-san checked it on 12 January and the egg was already spoiled.  But this time both the male (A01) and female (unbanded) incubated.  We are hoping [for] next season!”

Click here to read earlier new stories on the translocation of Short-tailed Albatross chicks to Mukojima.

With thanks to Kiyoaki Ozaki, Division of Avian Conservation, Bird Migration Research Center, Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, Japan for information and to Chuck Pell for the translation from the original Japanese text.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 February 2014

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