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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The Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission adopts guidelines on the safe handling and release of seabirds

The 16th Regular Session of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC-16) was held earlier this month in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, where it adopted guidelines on the safe handling and release of seabirds. ACAP was represented at the meeting by its Executive Secretary, Christine Bogle who writes to ALN:

“The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels is very pleased that the WCPFC -16 has adopted the proposal put forward by the New Zealand Delegation (WCPF16-2019-DP07 - PROPOSAL FOR ADOPTION OF SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION – SAFE HANDLING AND RELEASE GUIDELINES FOR SEABIRDS) for non-binding guidelines on the safe release of seabirds caught alive on hooks.  These guidelines are based on ACAP advice and will help ensure that birds caught alive on hooks will have a better chance of survival.  These guidelines can be used not only for hook removal but also as general guidelines on the safe handling of injured seabirds on board.”  The Executive Secretary further noted that ACAP is working on developing safe handling and release guidelines for birds entangled in purse-seine nets.

Hook removal 1

Hook removal 2

Read more here where the WWF is quoted to say the newly adopted guidelines “should be mandatory and subject to clear monitoring and compliance review.”

ACAP submitted a paper (WCPFC16-2019-OP08 - ACAP STATEMENT ON REDUCING SEABIRD BYCATCH IN PELAGIC LONGLINE FISHERIES) to the meeting.  Its shortened abstract follows:

“The incidental mortality of seabirds in pelagic longline fisheries continues to be a serious global concern, especially for threatened albatrosses and petrels.  ACAP presented a background paper (WCPFC-SC15-2019/EB-IP-03 [ACAP advice for reducing the impact of pelagic longline fishing operations on seabirds]) to the meeting of the Fifteenth WCPFC Scientific Committee in August 2019 in which we provided an update on ACAP’s advice on mitigation of seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries.  The paper summarised updated ACAP advice on mitigation and identified new areas of focus to address the continuing conservation crisis facing albatrosses and petrels, and the need for urgent and increased efforts to counter this crisis.  This paper reiterates for the WCPFC Commission the main points made in that paper, including ACAP’s continuing emphasis on exploring with our colleagues in Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, and others, ways to work together more effectively to reduce bycatch of albatrosses and petrels in fishing operations and improve the conservation status of these threatened seabirds.”

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 December 2019

Hybridization and cuckoldry between Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses

Genevieve Jones (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the journal Antarctic Science on a hybrid Black-browed x Grey-headed Albatross at Marion Island.

“A vagrant black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris bred with a grey-headed albatross T. chrysostoma on Marion Island at least four times between 2000 and 2009 (and continued to return to the colony until at least 2019). The eggs failed to hatch in three breeding attempts, but the pair fledged a chick in the 2006/07 breeding season. Genetic sexing identified the black-browed albatross as female and she shared all eight sampled microsatellite alleles with the chick, whereas the grey-headed albatross social parent did not match the chick. The fledgling was banded and re-sighted in its natal breeding colony in 2016 and 2018, when it displayed an intermediate black-browed x grey-headed albatross phenotype, similar to a putative hybrid photographed at sea off Australia. These results suggest that the black-browed albatross cuckolded its social mate with another grey-headed albatross in 2006/07. The failures of the other three breeding attempts at the egg stage possibly indicate genetic incompatibility with the social partner.”

BBA x GHA hybrid 2s 

The hybrid Black-browed x Grey-headed Albatross on Marion Island, photograph by Chris Jones

Read an earlier ACAP Latest News post on hybridization in albatrosses.

With thanks to Chris Jones.

Reference:

Jones, M.G.W., Techow, N.M.S., Risi, M.M., Jones, C.W., Hagens, Q.A., Taylor, F. & Ryan, P.G. 2019.  Hybridization and cuckoldry between black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses.  Antarctic Science doi.org/10.1017/S0954102019000506.

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John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 December 2019

Brazil’s Projeto Albatroz is helping promote World Albatross Day

Estabished in 1990 in Santos, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, Projeto Albatroz aims to reduce the incidental capture of albatrosses and petrels by pelagic longline fishing in Brazilian waters.  Towards this aim the NGO develops and conducts research into mitigation measures that reduce seabird bycatch.  It also works in partnership with governmental and educational institutions to raise awareness among fishers and the youth of marine conservation issues, especially those facing albatrosses and petrels.  The project is sponsored by Petrobras (a semi-public Brazilian multinational corporation in the petroleum industry) through its environmental programme.

Projeto Albatroz logo 

WAD Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this year ACAP instituted a World Albatross Day Intersessional Group with Tatiana Neves, Projeto Albatroz founder and General Coordinator (Coordenação Geral), as a member.  This allows Projeto Albatroz and ACAP to work closely together on awareness raising and activity planning as the inaugural day approaches on 19 June next year.

Tatiana Neves 3

Tatiana Neves, Projeto Albatroz General Coordinator

Tatiana Neves has written to ACAP Latest News in both English and her home language, Portuguese:

“Having a World Albatross Day is a great idea.  I have dedicated a lifetime to the conservation of albatrosses and petrels, so having a World Albatross Day, as recognition of the global importance of those magnificent birds and the threats they face, is important in increasing global awareness of the importance of actions to prevent their extinction.”

“Ter um Dia do Albatroz é uma ótima ideia.  I tenho dedicado todo uma vida para a conservação de albatrozes e petreis, e ter um Dia do Albatroz, como um reconhecimento da importância global para essas aves magníficas e das ameaças que elas enfrentam, é crucial para aumentar a consciência global sobre a importância das ações para prevenir sua extinção.”

Tatiana is a veteran of ACAP meetings, attending on both Brazilian Delegations (Brazil became a Party to ACAP by ratification in 2008) and as an observer representing Projeto Albatroz.  Currently she serves as Vice-chair of ACAP’s Advisory Committee; previously she was Vice-convenor of the ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group.  She has also written a coffee-table book on albatrosses in Portuguese entitled Albatroz um Projeto pela Vida, published in 2013.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 13 December 2019

First definite record of a House Mouse attacking an adult Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross on Gough Island

That House Mice Mus musculus have turned to attacking albatross chicks on Gough and Marion Islands has become well known – and has been regularly reported on in ACAP Latest News.  More recently, mice have been recorded attacking adult Critically Endangered Tristan Albatrosses Diomedea dabbenena on Gough and adult Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli on Marion (click here).  The observations published earlier this year in the journal Polar Biology gave only circumstantial evidence of mice attacking an adult of another albatross species on Gough, as stated in the paper’s abstract:  “In October 2018, an incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos was found on Gough Island with a wound on its back suggestive of a mouse attack …”.

Adult tristan albatross with back wounds from mice 2018 Left Kate Lawrence Right Jaimie Cleeland

A wounded adult Tristan Albatross in March 2018 - the bird survived; photographs by Kate Lawrence (left) and Jaimie Cleeland (right)

Definite proof of an attack on an incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (an Endangered species) on Gough now comes with a 40-s video clip showing a mouse clambering over and disappearing under the bird’s rump feathers over a period of several hours on the night of 3/4 November this year – to the bird’s obvious discomfort.

Chris Jones, field biologist of the Gough Island Restoration Programme and currently on the island, has written to ACAP Latest News:

“The bird in the video clip had a small wound on its rump and abandoned the nest the following night.  We have had trail cameras on 31[Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross] nests on the southern slopes of Richmond [Hill], collecting hundreds of hours of footage and have only captured the one mouse attack on an adult.”

AYNA mouse wound Alexis Osborne

The wounded rump of the incubating Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross the following day, photograph by Dylan Seaton

With the intention to attempt to eradicate the mice on Gough next year, it is hoped that the island’s albatrosses – and other seabirds – will no longer have to face night-time attacks as videoed on the island last month.

With thanks to Chris Jones, Alexis Osborne, Michelle Risi and Dylan Seaton.  The Gough Island Restoration Programme is being led by the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, along with 12 partners.

Reference:

Jones, C.W., Risi, M.M., Cleeland, J. & Ryan, P.G. 2019. First evidence of mouse attacks on adult albatrosses and petrels breeding on sub-Antarctic Marion and Gough Islands.  Polar Biology doi.org/10.1007/s00300-018-02444-6.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 December 2019

UPDATE. Wisdom the Laysan Albatross, and the world’s oldest known bird, is back on Midway Atoll

UPDATE:

Wisdom Ack Nov 2019

The pair on 9 November, photograph by Emily Jankowski / USFWS

Wisdom's current mate (Akeakamai; Red G00) was seen back on Midway on 9 November, next to Wisdom (Red Z33).  It is suggested it is a bit late for an egg this season, so they may take a (deserved) gap year.

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 Wisdom, a female Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis and the world's oldest known banded wild bird, has returned to the USA’s Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the northern Pacific.  She is now considered to be at least 69 years old – but could be older as she was originally banded in 1956 as an adult.

Wisdom was first sighted on 22 November this year.  “She has been preparing her nest in her usual location in anticipation her current mate [Akeakamai] will arrive soon”.

Wisdom Nov 2019

Wisdom in November 2019, photograph by William Kennerley/USFWS

“Wisdom is important not only because she is a part of a long-term study of [the] albatross population, but also because she is an individual that we can actually know and follow her personal history” according to Elizabeth (Beth) Flint, [USFWS] Supervisory Wildlife Biologist in a video clip.  “She has seen so much, and yet she is still doing what she evolved to do: surviving and raising young every year.  That makes her incredibly powerful as a symbol of why we do what we do.”

Beth Flint has been a regular member of the USA’s observer delegation to ACAP meetings over the years and is a member of the ACAP Population and Conservation Working Group.  She recently wrote on the subject of next year’s inaugural Word Albatross Day to ACAP Latest News: “While we share similar life spans and the spatial scales of our activities, ranging over vast areas of the globe, albatrosses have lived on earth in their current form tens of millions of years longer than Homo sapiens without disrupting or degrading their own habitats”.  She was probably thinking of Wisdom.

Beth Flint

Beth Flint wears Red Z333, the colour band of Wisdom

Read more here and access the many postings about Wisdom in ACAP Latest News.

Meanwhile, Midway’s other two famous birds, Geraldine and George the atoll’s only pair of breeding Short-tailed Albatrosses P. albatrus, are already back for a new season and are incubating their new egg (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 November 2019, updated 10 & 11 December 2019

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