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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BirdLife International’s Albatross Task Force in Chile is fully onboard with World Albatross Day 2020

AWD2020 Banner for trawl in Chile by Diego Segovia

Albatross Task Force - Chile makes a dual-language WAD2020 banner to take to sea, photograph by Diego Segovia

In response to the global conservation crisis being faced by albatrosses, countries across the globe need to step up to the challenge of implementing measures to reduce the impacts by invasive species at their colonies and to reduce fisheries bycatch at sea.  The 13 Parties to the Albatross and Petrel Agreement have encouraged the use of mitigation measures such as bird-scaring lines in longline and trawl fisheries to help protect albatrosses at sea through the implementation of fisheries regulations.  However, fisheries bycatch does not only occur in the jurisdictional waters of ACAP Parties, but also beyond them on the High Seas.

The experience of BirdLife International’s Albatross Task Force (ATF) - the world’s first international team of bycatch experts dedicated to saving the albatross by working on vessels and promoting the use of mitigation measures in fisheries – has highlighted the fact that many fishing fleets remain unaware of the role bycatch mitigation measures can play in saving albatrosses from extinction.  Since 2006 ATF teams have been working directly with small-scale fishers and fishing companies worldwide to raise awareness and demonstrate the effectiveness of mitigation measures to fishing crews and thereby increase compliance with their use.

A Mitigation kit incl. Tamini Tabla during mitigation trials in Chile by ATF ChileMitigation kit including an award-winning ‘Tamini Tabla’ tow device used during mitigation trials in south-central Chilean waters, photograph by ATF-Chile

B Bird scaring line trawl 2019 by ATF Chile

A bird-scaring line gets deployed behind a demersal trawler, south-central Chile, photograph by  ATF-Chile

Volunteers bird scaring line for trawl in Chile by CG Suazo shrunk

CODEFF (Comité Pro-Defensa de la Fauna y Flora, BirdLife International’s partner in Chile) volunteers and observers with a trawler bird-scaring line they have made

Photograph by ATF-Chile

In Chile the ATF has been working with trawl fleets since 2011.  In 2018, an important knowledge transfer took place in the form of an “at-sea classroom” involving both local researchers and deck crews working in the Humboldt Current System.

New regulations for trawl fisheries were subsequently introduced in Chile in 2019, with the aim to reduce their impacts on seabirds (click here).  Moving forward, the ATF will continue to work with fisheries in Chilean waters to navigate towards best practices being applied on board.

As the industry transitions towards more seabird-safe fishing practices in the face of the new regulations, the team’s work is primarily focused around increasing awareness about the correct use of mitigation measures.  Additionally, Chile’s ATF team is using its World Albatross Day 2020 banner – the very first to be taken to sea - to help raise awareness of the plight of albatrosses amongst those working at-sea in Chilean waters.  Gaining recognition among fishers of the need to conserve albatrosses is undoubtedly a powerful sign that the tide of our collective attitude and commitment is changing.

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ATF-Chile's WAD2020 banner is deployed by crew members aboard the Chilean trawler PAM Bonn in south-central Chile on 20 December 2019

Photograph by Christian Ibieta, ATF-Chile

Have a great 2020 for all and a great WAD2020 across all the seas of the world!

With thanks to Nina da Rocha, Christian Ibieta, Diego Segovia, Association of Industrial Fisheries of Chile (Asociación de Industriales Pesqueros, ASIPES) and the PacificBlu fishing company.

Cristián G. Suazo, Albatross Task Force – Chile, 21 January 2020

The ACAP Advisory Committee will meet for the 12th time in Ecuador from the end of August

The Twelfth Meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee (AC12) will be held from Monday 31 August to Friday 4 September 2020, in the Mantahost Hotel, Manta, Ecuador.  Meetings of the Seabird Bycatch Working Group and the Population and Conservation Status Working Group will precede AC12 at the same venue: SBWG10 from Monday 24 to Thursday 27 August, and PaCSWG6 from Thursday 27 to Friday 28 August.  As decided by AC11, a joint SBWG10/PACSWG6 will be held on the morning of Thursday 27 August to discuss cross-cutting issues.  A Heads of Delegation meeting will be convened on Sunday 30 August in the late afternoon/evening.


Ecuador's endemic Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata is Critically Endangered, photograph by Laurie Smaglick Johnson

Information on deadlines for submission and distribution of meeting documents are given in Circular 1, available in ACAP’s three official languages of English, French and Spanish.  Information is also given in the circular on applications for observer status by international and non-international bodies.

A block booking for delegates has been made at the Mantahost Hotel; more details in the first circular.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 January 2020

Plenty buds: 1.8 million pairs of Great Shearwaters make Nightingale Island home

Ben Dilley (FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa and colleagues have published in the open-access journal Marine Ornithology on a burrowing petrel survey of the Nightingale Island group in the South Atlantic.  Two islets are recommended for nature reserve status.

Islets off Nightingale Island: Middle and Stoltenhoff behind

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Nightingale is a group of three small, uninhabited islands in the central South Atlantic Ocean. The islands are free of introduced mammals and are largely pristine, supporting two endemic land birds as well as globally important populations of several species of seabirds. Seven species of burrow-nesting petrels are known to breed on the islands, including roughly 40 % of the world's population of Great Shearwaters Ardenna gravis. We estimated burrow densities by systematically searching for their burrows in 5×5-m quadrats across the main island in the austral summer of 2015. A total of 1789 petrel burrows fell within the 75 sample quadrats with an average density of 0.95 burrows∙m-2, suggesting that upwards of four million petrels breed on the main island. Burrow densities and occupancy rates were extrapolated by species for each habitat type to generate population estimates: Great Shearwaters 2.34 million burrows (1.82 million pairs, 95 % CI 1.67-1.97 million); Broad-billed Prions Pachyptila vittata a minimum of 83 000 burrows (with many more pairs breeding in rock crevices, total estimate 100 000-500 000 pairs), White-faced Storm Petrels Pelagodroma marina 17 800 burrows (11 700 pairs, 95 % CI 4 700-16 600), Soft-plumaged Petrels Pterodroma mollis 12 100 burrows (estimated 8 000-10 000 pairs), Fregetta Storm Petrels F. grallaria/tropica 6 600 burrows (estimated 5 000 pairs), Common Diving Petrels Pelecanoides urinatrix 3 900 burrows (estimated 5 000 pairs), and Subantarctic Shearwaters Puffinus elegans an estimated 1 000 pairs. Although Great Shearwater burrow densities and occupancies were lowest in the areas historically used for exploitation of chicks and eggs (ongoing, but now monitored), these results suggest the great shearwater population on Nightingale Island has remained relatively stable since the first estimates in the 1950s.”


Great Shearwaters at sea


Dilley, B.J., Davies, D., Mitham, A., Glass, T., Repetto, J., Swain, G. & Ryan, P.G. 2019.  Population estimates of burrow-nesting petrels breeding at the Nightingale Island group, Tristan da Cunha Archipelago.  Marine Ornithology 47: 267-275.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 January 2020

Three photographers donate use of their albatross images to support ACAP and World Albatross Day

The Albatross and Petrel Agreement keeps on file photographs of its 31 listed species to illustrate articles posted to its website and Facebook page and for use in posters, booklets and other materials that are produced from time to time. The majority of these photos has come from supporters of the Agreement who have generously allowed use of their work without charge.

With the build up to the inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June this year, ACAP Latest News has found itself in need of new and fresh photos of the world’s 22 species of albatrosses. A special requirement has been making over a hundred of such photos available for the current collaboration with ABUN (Artists & Biologists Unite for Nature) so that participating artists can gain inspiration for their work

Three photographers have stepped up to help in the last few days. Michelle Risi is a biologist currently conducting monitoring research on albatrosses and other seabirds on Gough Island with the Gough Island Restoration Programme of the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. She has contributed a suite of photos of the six albatross species that breed on Gough and Marion Islands. Michelle has written to ACAP Latest News on her motivation to help: “Working with albatrosses has changed my life, so now I am working to change theirs. I hope World Albatross Day can make people feel for albatrosses the same way they do for penguins. They are equally deserving of our awe and attention and are in desperate need of action as they face a conservation crisis.” Michelle made the original suggestion to ACAP to inaugurate a World Albatross Day. She is also a member of the Agreement’s World Albatross Day Intesessional Group.

Tristan.9Michelle Risi on Gough Island beside a Tristan Albatross chick with her WAD2020 banner

Sooty Albatross chick Michelle Risi

Sooty Albatross chick, photograph by Michelle Risi

Wieteke Holthuijzen, a Board Director of the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (FOMA), has contributed photos of the three albatross species that breed on Midway Atoll in the North Pacific. She is currently an MSc student with Northern Illinois University studying Midway’s introduced House Mice Mus musculus that have taken to attacking the island’s albatrosses. The mice are due to be eradicated later this year. Her study concentrates on the mice’s diets and their broader ecological impacts on the atoll, which fits well with WAD2020’s theme of Eradicating Island Pests”.

Wieteke Holzjhausen shrunk

Wieteke bands a Laysan Albatross on Sand Island, Midway Atoll

Wieteke Holzjhausen Laysan

A Laysan Albatross tends its downy chick, photograph by Wieteke Holthuijzen

 Laurie Johnson South Georgia shrunk

Laurie on a South Atlantic island with a King Penguin colony in the background

The most recent contribution has come from USA-based Laurie Smaglick Johnson who been engaged in conservation photography for 25 years. She has photographed albatrosses in both hemispheres; her donated portfolio of stunning images covers 12 species, including a number of interesting ‘action shots’ taken both on land and at sea. Laurie, now retired, describes herself as an electrical engineer and corporate executive by education and career experience, a scientist by thought process, and a conservationist by heart. She tells ALN she has published a photographic book entitled Silent Conversations with Eastern Wood Warblers. Maybe one on albatrosses should follow?


A Waved Albatross pair interact on Española Island, Galapagos; photograph by Laurie Smaglick Johnson

ACAP is always ready to converse with wildlife photographers who feel, like Michelle, Wieteke and Laurie, that they would like to support the conservation of albatrosses and petrels with their work. The Agreement will inform anyone interested in helping of the notable gaps in ACAP’s growing collection of photographs.

With grateful thanks to Wieteke Holthuijzen, Laurie Smaglick Johnson and Michelle Risi, and to all the photographers who have allowed use of their photographs by ACAP in the last two decades.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 January 2020

Ecuador hosts an international workshop on its endemic Galapagos Petrel

The First International Meeting for the Conservation of the Galápagos Petrel (Primera Reunión Internacional para la Conservación del Petrel de Galápagos) was held in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos over 5-7 November 2019.  The purpose of this meeting was to bring together researchers, governmental agencies and non-profit groups with the shared interest of coordinating future conservation actions for Ecuador’s endemic petrel and to draft an action plan.

The Critically Endangered Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia has been listed by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in Annex 1 since 1979 and has been proposed in the past for listing by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).  It faces a multitude of threats on all five known breeding islands in the Galapagos, including predation pressure from feral cats, dogs and pigs and non-native rodents and collisions with utility lines and wind turbines.

Galapagos Petrel at sea, photograph by Eric Vanderwerf

The workshop heard updates from the Galapagos National Park, the primary government agency with responsibility for the petrel’s management as well as from members of the research community and national and international conservation organizations.  ACAP was represented by its Executive Secretary, Christine Bogle and Vice-Chair of its Advisory Committee, Tatiana Neves, from Brazil’s Projeto Albatroz, who contributed to the ‘brainstorming’ and presented information about the Agreement, its activities and its products.

Galapagos Petrel Workshop.3 shrunk

Some discussion at the meeting centred on whether the opportunity should be taken at the next ACAP Advisory Committee meeting (AC12) due to be held in Ecuador later this year to once again present a case for the inclusion of this species on ACAP's Annex 1, through presenting  more information, especially related to at-sea threats. A small group was established to consider this issue further and to decide whether to pursue re-nomination of the Galápagos Petrel as an ACAP-listed species.


Workshop attendees (left); Christine and Tatiana make their presentation (right)


Other matters discussed by the meeting included:

Recognizing the previous work done to understand and to protect the species;
Presenting information on geographical distribution at sea;
Sharing understanding of current status and threats;
Sharing results of new technology – acoustic surveys, automatic rodent traps;
Projecting future conservation scenarios;
Sharing community outreach activities;
Identifying key research needs to support conservation decision-making; and
Identifying and prioritizing conservation actions.

The meeting report is currently being finalized; once available ACAP Latest News will report on its main conclusions.

With thanks to Sebastian Cruz, Tatiana Neves, Hannah Nevins & Carolina Proaño.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 January 2020

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