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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Two French colour-banded White-chinned Petrels reported killed by fishing vessels off Namibia

Bronwyn Currie of the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources reports a banded White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis killed by a longliner on 14 May this year at 22° 51’S; 13° 04’E off Walvis Bay, Namibia.   The bird carried a French metal band DZ 25706 along with black-on-yellow colour band 212.  The bird was banded on 29 November 2013 as a breeding adult with a chick on Île Haute, Golfe de Morbihan, Îles Kerguelen.

White-chinned Petrels fall victim to a Namibian longliner

Photograph by John Paterson

An earlier record is of banded White-chinned Petrel DZ 21644 killed in a hake trawl on 11 August 2008 in Namibian waters at 28° 21’S; 14° 33’E.  Then fisheries observer onboard kept the head and the banded leg for identification purposes showing that the bird was banded as a chick on 15 March 2007 on Île de la Possession, Îles Crozet.

 

DZ 21644

Click here to access earlier reports in ACAP Latest News of fisheries-induced mortality of ACAP-listed seabirds, including of banded individuals, in Namibian waters.

With thanks to Kolette Grobler, Jean-Paul Roux, Franck Theron and Henri Weimerskirch for information.

Selected Literature:

Péron, C., Delord, K., Phillips, R.A., Charbonnier, Y., Marteau, C., Louzao, M. & Weimerskirch, H. 2010.  Seasonal variation in oceanographic habitat and behaviour of White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis from Kerguelen Island.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 416: 267-284.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 06 June 2014

Book review: “Albatross” by Graham Barwell is about “proverbs, folk stories, poetry and art”

Books on albatrosses come out regularly nowadays, with at least one title a year it seems.  How does this latest offering - “Albatross” by Graham Barwell in Reaktion Books’ Animal Series stack up, say in comparison to “Albatrosses” (2008) by Terence Lindsay and a book of the same name (2011) by Tony Martin?  Well, in a nutshell, this one is rather different.

The book (being published today so for once my review is not tardy) is described as “an engaging account of the historical relationship between people and albatross, and their impact on human cultures”; it “examines how people have interacted with the bird over the last two centuries, from those who sought to exploit them to those who devoted their lives to them.”

Following an introduction about albatrosses themselves the book has six chapters: “Encountering the Albatross; Imagining the Albatross; Using the Albatross: Indigenous Cultures of the Pacific; Using the Albatross: Non-indigenous Peoples; Saving the Albatross; and The Albatross Today: an Iconic Bird.  There are also lists of selected references and websites (ACAP is the first listed) and an index.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 “The Rime of the Ancyent Mariner” gets covered in some detail of course, but you can also read what  British privateer George Shelvocke of the Speedwell thought of albatrosses in 1719 when they shot “a disconsolate black Albitross” at sea in order to get a “fair wind after it’.

Less well known to me was the use of albatross feathers as “distinctive symbols of authority and status used in the highest ranks of Hawaiian society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”  Why have I never visited the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu on my several Hawaiian visits to view the feather-bedecked “Red Awe of Heaven” made to celebrate the birth of a prince in 1858?  Maybe next time… .  I was also unaware that the Maori and Moriori of New Zealand used albatross feathers and down as head ornaments as well as to make cloaks.

The book then moves to more recent – and destructive – exploitation, notably of the North Pacific species for their eggs and feathers (for stuffing duvets and adorning hats), culminating in the near extinction of the Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus.  Cheerfully we can report that all three North Pacific albatrosses are now showing promising signs of recovery, although still considered threatened, as reported regularly in ACAP Latest News.

 

Waved Albatross in art

This photograph by John Cooper appears in Graham Barwell's "Albatross"

An error or two has crept into the more biological aspects of the book.  For example, there have never been feral cats on Gough Island so the grave harm that the introduced House Mouse (click here!) continues to wreak on the island’s birds, most especially its near-endemic and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, is not due the removal of cats.

The author is an Associate Professor in the School of the Arts, English and Media at the University of Wollongong, in New South Wales, Australia.  As befitting his position the book is well written and illustrated and is an easy read.  I enjoyed going through it, polishing it off over just a few evenings, and pretty soon will want to read it again.  I recommend it to albatross researchers and conservationists alike to round off their knowledge of these magnificent ocean flyers.

Lastly, pleasing to see ACAP Latest News gets used as one of the sources in the writing of this book!

References:

Barwell, Graham 2014.  Albatross.  London: Reaktion Books.  Paperback.  101 illustrations, 51 in colour.  208 pp.  ISBN 978 1 78023 191 4.  GBP 9.99; AUD 24.00.

Martin, Tony 2011.  Albatrosses.  Grafton-on-Spey: Colin Baxter Photography.  72 pp.

Lindsey, Terence 2008.  Albatrosses.  Collingword: CSIRO Publishing.  139 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 June 2014

Taking a break? Another colour-banded Black-browed Albatross gets photographed in southern African waters

Following on from a recent report in ACAP Latest News of a colour-banded Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris being photographed in Namibian waters, Chrissie Madden (Albatross Task Force, BirdLife South Africa) photographed a Black-browed Albatross with a white-on-red colour band numbered 554 on its left leg and a metal band on the right beside a demersal trawler on 13 May 2014 off the southern coast of Cape Town, South Africa at 35° 24’S; 18° 48’E.

Red 544 comes into for a landing, photograph by Chrissie Madden

Andy Wood of the British Antarctic Survey reports to ACAP Latest News that Red 554 was banded at Bird Island in the South Atlantic:

“It was ringed as an adult bird in 2007/08 with the red darvic [=plastic] and metal ring number 1434093.  It was a breeding bird in 2007/08, 2008/09 and 2009/10, then seen as a non-breeder in 2010/11 and again this season (2013/14).  The partner in the earlier three breeding seasons was the same bird 1425800/Red 943, and none of the breeding attempts [was] successful, all failing at the late chick stage.  1425800 has not been seen in the colony since 2009/10 - possibly the reason why Red 554 has not bred since then.”

With thanks to Chrissie Madden and Andy Wood for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 June 2014

 

A Balearic Shearwater breeding island is considered threatened by plans to use its lighthouse as a hotel

The island of Sa Conillera, in Spain’s Balearic Archipelago supports a breeding population of the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus.

Sa Conillera, the lighthouse is just discernable above the cliffs on the right of the island

Plans to use the lighthouse as a hotel on the uninhabited 100-ha island have raised concern for the island’s shearwater population.  The Sociedad Española de Ornitología (SEO/BirdLife) and the Ibiza Preservation Fund have concluded in a recent discussion meeting that “the highest level of precaution is needed to avoid irrevocable damage to the island’s biodiversity” (click here).

"The meeting sends a strong message to the developers and to the Balearic government," stated Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Europe. "Although many in society see moneymaking opportunities in our last wild places, it is encouraging to see that the people of the Balearic archipelago recognise the area’s intrinsic value" (click here).

Balearic Shearwater, photograph from the Ibiza Preservation Fund

The website of the magazine Birdwatch reports: “[t]he island is a protected national marine area and is safeguarded by EU law for its seabirds through the Natura 2000 network.  But this is all about to change when the only building on the tiny island, the lighthouse, will be converted into an exclusive boutique hotel.  The development and running of touristic infrastructure will disrupt the breeding seabirds, many of which nest right next to the building."

“The hotel will also increase the risk of introducing predators such as cats and mice, which would prey on seabird eggs and chicks," said Pep Arcos, Marine Coordinator at SEO/BirdLife Spain, "with devastating impacts on the population of Balearic Shearwater, a species which is already on the brink of extinction."

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 June 2013

A Black-browed Albatross visits the inshore waters of Denmark and Germany

Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris are quite regularly recorded as vagrants in the North Atlantic having crossed the Equator, with records of birds seen at sea and even holding nest sites in Northern Gannet Morus bassanus colonies over a number of years (click here).

An adult Black-browed Albatross was photographed flying past Skagen, Denmark’s most northerly point that separates the Skagerrak from the Kattegat at the entrance to the Baltic Sea on 26 May this year.  The bird was seen flying over land as well out to sea and had also been seen the previous day in the vicinity (click here).

The Skagen Black-browed Albatross, photograph by John Larsen

Two days later, on 28 May an adult Black-browed Albatross, quite possibly the same bird, was photographed flying south from the Heligoland Islands, 46 km off the Atlantic coast of Germany (click here).

The Heligoland Black-browed Albatross - the same bird?

Photograph by Felix Jachmann

Black-browed Albatrosses have been reported for both countries previously.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 June 2014

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