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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Convention on Migratory Species to discuss reducing seabird bycatch in gill and trawl fisheries, marine debris and invasive species on seabird islands in Bonn this week

The Scientific Council of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) will hear a report from its By-catch Working Group this week in Bonn, Germany at its 18th Meeting.

Inter alia, the council will review an assessment report (UNEP/CMS/ScC18/Inf.10.15.1) of bycatch in gill net fisheries and consider the outcomes of a technical workshop held in Christchurch, New Zealand last year to identify new operational or technical measures for reducing the risk to seabirds from gill and trawl nets (click here).

Black-browed Albatrosses gather behind a fishing trawler, photograph by Graham Parker

Management of marine debris and a draft resolution on the subject will also be discussed (click here) as will a review on the impact of invasive alien species on species protected under the Convention on Migratory Species.  In the latter document the successful Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP) is treated as a case study.  The review also refers to the ACAP Conservation Guidelines document for the eradication of introduced mammals from breeding sites of ACAP-listed seabirds (click here).

See earlier ACAP Latest News reports on CMS-related activities here.

With thanks to Barry Baker, CMS Councillor for By-Catch for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 July 2014

Evidence for long-term effects of pollutants on Wandering Albatrosses

Aurélie Goutte (Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, Villiers-en-Bois, France) and colleagues have published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences on pollutants affecting Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans.

“Seabirds are top predators of the marine environment that accumulate contaminants over a long life-span. Chronic exposure to pollutants is thought to compromise survival rate and long-term reproductive outputs in these long-lived organisms, thus inducing population decline.  However, the demographic consequences of contaminant exposure are largely theoretical because of the dearth of long-term datasets.  This study aims to test whether adult survival rate, return to the colony and long-term breeding performance were related to blood mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), by using a capture–mark–recapture dataset on the vulnerable wandering albatross Diomedea exulans.  We did not find evidence for any effect of contaminants on adult survival probability.  However, blood Hg and POPs negatively impacted long-term breeding probability, hatching and fledging probabilities.  The proximate mechanisms underlying these deleterious effects are likely multifaceted, through physiological perturbations and interactions with reproductive costs.  Using matrix population models, we projected a demographic decline in response to an increase in Hg or POPs concentrations.  This decline in population growth rate could be exacerbated by other anthropogenic perturbations, such as climate change, disease and fishery bycatch.  This study gives a new dimension to the overall picture of environmental threats to wildlife populations.”

Wandering Albatross and chick, photograph by John Cooper

Reference:

Goutte, A., Barbraud, C., Meillère, A., Carravieri, A., Bustamante, P., Labadie, P., Budzinski, H., Delord, K., Cherel, Y.,Weimerskirch, H. & Chastel, O. 2014.  Demographic consequences of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants in a vulnerable long-lived bird, the wandering albatross.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.3313.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 July 2014

Males are high-pitched, females low: assigning gender to sexually monomorphic Streaked Shearwaters

Hiroshi Arima (Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan) and colleagues write in the Japanese journal Ornithological Science on assigning gender to sexually monomorphic Streaked Shearwaters Calonectris leucomelas.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Like most seabirds Streaked Shearwaters Calonectris leucomelas have sexually monomorphic plumage.  Researchers have conveniently identified gender in the field by means of two types of calls, associated with dimorphism in body size.  By molecular sexing analysis using the chromo-helicase-DNA-binding (CHD) genes, we determined the gender of Streaked Shearwaters in relation to call types and body size.  We recorded the type of calls, measured body dimensions and collected non-invasive samples (buccal cells or feathers) of Streaked Shearwaters at two breeding islands.  As obvious amplification to identify gender by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) could not be obtained at high rates using a known universal primer pair, we developed two new primer pairs to identify gender in this species; this enabled us to identify the gender of all of the samples.  Without exception all males gave high-pitched calls, whereas all females gave low-pitched calls.  Molecular evidence also confirmed morphometric differences between males and females.  We, therefore, conclude that Streaked Shearwaters exhibit sexual dimorphism in body size and call type.  Males are significantly larger than females, and males give high calls whereas females give low calls.”

Reference:

Arima, H., Oka, N., Baba, Y., Sugawa, H. & Ota, T.2014.  Gender identification by calls and body size of the Streaked Shearwater examined by CHD genes.  Ornithological Science 13: 9-17.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 June 2014

ACAP Breeding Site No. 73. Kure, World’s most northerly coral atoll, supports Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses

The most westerly of the USA’s Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NHWI) in the North Pacific, Kure Atoll falls within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a large Marine Protected Area declared in 2006.  In 2010 Papahanaumokuakea became one of then only 28 mixed (cultural and natural) UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the World.

The atoll consists of a 10-km wide near-circular barrier reef surrounding a shallow lagoon and several sandy islets.  Total land area is 86 ha, with Green Island making up 78 ha.  It is the World's most northerly coral atoll.

As well as breeding populations of ACAP-listed Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes (2854 pairs in 2014) and Laysan P. immutabilis (20 073 pairs in 2014) Albatrosses a single female-female pair of Short-tailed Albatrosses P. albatrus has laid two infertile eggs in a single nest annually since 2010 (click here).

A mixed-species albatross colony on Kure Atoll

 Black-footed Albatross on Kure Atoll

A Laysan Albatross on Kure Atoll

The Kure female-female pair of Short-tailed Albatrosses

Photographs by Cynthia Vanderlip

Breeding statistics from Kure Atoll from Kure Atoll Conservancy

Other procellariiform species that breed on Kure include Wedge-tailed Puffinus pacificus and Christmas P. nativitatus Shearwaters, Bonin Petrels Pterodroma hypoleuca and small numbers of Tristram’s Storm Petrels Oceanodroma tristrami.

Kure Atoll is managed by the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Forestry and Wildlife.  DLNR technicians and volunteers work to restore Kure’s habitats by clearing invasive non-native plants (notably Golden Crownbeard Verbesina encelioidesclick here), reintroducing native plants, removing nets and other debris from reefs and beaches and monitoring the atoll’s animal and plant populations.  A successful programme to eradicate Polynesian or Pacific Rats Rattus exulans which had been attacking adult seabirds (including albatrosses) and eating eggs and young chicks was undertaken from 1993 to 1995.

The Kure Atoll Conservancy is a non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting restoration and other wildlife management programmes that enhance biological diversity, ecosystem health and cultural resources of Kure Atoll (click here).  Follow the fortunes of field workers on Kure here.

With thanks to Cynthia Vanderlip, Executive Director, Kure Atoll Conservancy for photographs.

Selected Literature:

Arata, J.A., Sievert, P.R. & Naughton, M.B. 2009.  Status Assessment of Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, North Pacific Ocean, 1923-2000.  U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5131.  Reston: U.S. Geological Survey.

Cousins, K. & Cooper, J. 2000.  The Population Biology of the Black-footed Albatross in Relation to Mortality caused by Longline Fishing.  Honolulu: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Frierson, P. 2012.  The Last Atoll.  Exploring Hawai’i’s Endangered Ecosystems.  San Antonio: Trinity University Press.  309 pp.

Harrison, C.S. 1990.  Seabirds of Hawaii:  Natural History and Conservation.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 249 pp.

Naughton, M.B., Romano, M.D. & Zimmerman, T.S. 2007.  A Conservation Action Plan for Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) and Laysan Albatross (P. immutabilis). Version 1.0.

Pyle, R.L. & Pyle, P. 2009.  The Birds of the Hawaiian Islands: Occurrence, History, Distribution, and Status.  Version 1.  Honolulu: B.P. Bishop Museum.

Rauzon, M. J. 2001.  Isles of Refuge.  Wildlife and History of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.  205 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 June 2014

The Short-tailed Albatross pair on Midway Atoll fledges its third chick in four years

The Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus pair on Eastern Island, part of the USA’s Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the North Pacific, has fledged its third chick in four years since commencing egg-laying in the 2010/2011 breeding season.

Other than the female-female pair on Kure Atoll that lay infertile eggs (click here) the Midway birds are the only breeding Short-tails outside islands belonging to Japan (noting that ownership of one locality is disputed).

A Midway Short-tailed Albatross, photograph by Dan Clark 

Click here to access earlier reports in ACAP Latest News on Midway’s now-famous Short-tailed Albatrosses.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 June 2014

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