Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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The Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, the Balearic Shearwater and World Albatross Day

SPEA logo

The Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves; SPEA) is a nonprofit environmental NGO founded in 1993 with about 4000 members.  SPEA’s mission is focused on the study and conservation of wild birds and their habitats, as well as onsupporting sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.

SPEA is the BirdLife partner in Portugal and has as its main goals:

To promote the study of bird biology and develop a scientific and technical basis for the implementation of conservation and management measures;
To enhance the conservation of wild bird populations and their habitats, particularly within Portuguese territory; and
To contribute to the development and promotion of ornithology in its various aspects through the development and dissemination of the guiding principles of the discipline.

SPEA’s Marine Department began its work in 2004, with the identification of marine Important Bird Areas (mIBAs) for seabirds in Portugal, followed by the government adoption of legal protection for these special sites. Over the past few years, the marine team has grown and focused its work on two of the main threats to seabirds: invasive species on islands and seabird bycatch.  Currently, the marine team works in Portugal and Cabo Verde on numerous projects, with several partners and involving the collaboration of hundreds of volunteers a year.

Portugal has an extensive coastline holding important colonies of breeding seabirds.  The area is also important as a feeding and passage area for several species, including the ACAP-listed and Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus.

Recreational fisher releases Balearic Shearwater

A recreational fisher about to release an entangled Balearic Shearwater, photograph by SPEA

 Ana Almeida shrunkAna Almeida, SPEA’s Marine Conservation Officer, writes to ACAP Latest News: “The Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater crosses Portuguese waters in search of food and a safe place to rest during the non-breeding period.  Unfortunately, here it faces a serious threat from fisheries.  At SPEA, we are working to develop mitigation measures that reduce seabird bycatch, in close collaboration with fishers.  All together, we can make a difference.  On World Albatross Day, we will celebrate seabirds and sustainable fishing, with no seabird bycatch.”

Joana Andrade

Joana Andrade, Head of SPEA’s Marine Conservation Department also has a message for ‘WAD2020’: “The Balearic Shearwater is a seabird that breeds only in Spain’s Balearic Islands and that during its non-breeding period occurs in Portuguese waters.  It is a species with a small population that faces a sharp decline and is expected to be extinct in 60 years.  The main threats to the species are introduced species at its breeding sites and bycatch.  At SPEA we are working to understand better the impact of bycatch.  We go aboard commercial fishing vessels to monitor how shearwaters get entangled in the fishing gear, at what time of the year, in what type of fishing gear, etc.  There is an urgent need to raise awareness of the need to conserve this magnificent species.  On World Albatross Day we want to draw everyone´s attention to the need to protect the Balearic Shearwater,  so that it does not disappear from our oceans.”

SPEA is the seventh national BirdLife partner to offer its support of World Albatross Day in 2020, following those of Australia, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom, all Parties to ACAP; support has also come from BirdLife International.

With thanks to Ana Almeida for text and photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer 28 February 2020

UPDATE. The 4th International Forum on the Sub-Antarctic to be held in Hobart in July: deadline for abstracts approaches

UPDATE:  Closing date for submissions has been extended by one week to 7 March.

Fourth Sub A Forum

The 4th International Forum on the Sub-Antarctic will be held in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia from Wednesday 29 to Thursday 30 July 2020.  The meeting is to be hosted by the Tasmanian Government and the New Zealand Department of Conservation

“A reminder that abstracts for speed talks/posters for the 4th International Forum on the sub-Antarctic close on 29 February.  This is the only international conference dedicated to the sub-Antarctic.  We want to hear from anyone who has an interest in anything about the sub-Antarctic. Please spread the word to colleagues who may be interested and may not be on our mailing list.”

For more information or to submit an abstract click here.

Albatross Island Rachael Alderman 5

Shy Albatrosses Thalassarche cauta on Tasmania's Albatross Island, photograph by Rachael Alderman

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 February 2020, updated 27 February 2020

Kia kaha, e toroa! The Antipodean Albatross is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species at the 13th Conference of Parties in India

Antipodean Albatross CMS Appendix I

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) at its 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP13) held in Gandhinagar, India over 17 - 22 February 2020 listed the globally Endangered Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis on Appendix 1 of the Convention.  Appendix I comprises migratory species that have been assessed as being in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range.  “Parties that are a Range State to a migratory species listed in Appendix I shall endeavour to strictly protect them by: prohibiting the taking of such species, with very restricted scope for exceptions; conserving and where appropriate restoring their habitats; preventing, removing or mitigating obstacles to their migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them”.  Appendix II, on which the albatross was already listed, covers migratory species that have an unfavourable conservation status and that require international agreements (such as ACAP) for their conservation and management, (click here).

The Antipodean Albatross was proposed by New Zealand, in which country the species is a breeding endemic, along with range states Australia and Chile (click here).  During discussion of the proposal at COP13 Uruguay made a statement in support of the listing on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Parties.  The European Union, host Party India and ACAP also spoke in support.

A shortened version of a press release by Eugenie Sage MP, New Zealand Minister of Conservation follows:

“New Zealanders care deeply about backing nature and backing birds like Antipodean albatross - it is a remarkable species, flying incredible distances every year, and is taonga/a treasure to Māori.  International cooperation is critical to bring the Antipodean albatross back from the brink of extinction.  This agreement will help create stronger measures to reduce instances of Antipodean albatross being inadvertently caught by fishing vessels - including on the high seas – so these birds can migrate safely.  Antipodean albatrosses are in serious trouble and need protecting. Numbers have halved since 2004 and we now only have 9,050 breeding pairs.  At the current rate of decline, this species could be extinct within the next 20 years.”

“Antipodean albatrosses cross several international boundaries during their annual migrations. They breed on islands off southern New Zealand, then spend much of their lives flying over the Pacific Ocean, travelling to Australia and across the high seas to Chile.  We signed an arrangement with Chile in late 2018 [click here] to tackle the decline of our albatross, petrels and other vulnerable seabirds. Today’s agreement shows an increasing international consensus on the need to save seabirds from extinction.”

Antipodean Albatross Kirk Zufelt Kitty Harvill

Antipodean Albatross by Kitty Harvill, Artists and Biologists Unite for Nature (ABUN), from a photograph by Kirk Zufelt

The Australian Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley MP has expressed similar sentiments to her New Zealand counterpart, saying “This is a tremendous outcome that will help reduce instances of the albatross being inadvertently caught by fishing vessels in coastal waters and the high sea[s], so that these birds can migrate safely”.  She affirmed that Australia will continue to be a strong advocate for protecting the natural environments that sustain migratory birds such as the Antipodean Albatross (click here).

ACAP’s Executive Secretary, Christine Bogle, attended COP13.  In her statements to the Parties she affirmed that as part of the CMS family, ACAP wants to take the opportunity to reaffirm its relationship with the Convention and our wish to collaborate with others in confronting the conservation crisis faced by albatrosses and petrels.  She noted that the Antipodean Albatross  has been listed on Annex 1 of the Agreement since 2004 (the year the Agreement came into force), and that the Antipodes Island nominate population [on Antipodes Island] has been an ACAP High Priority Population since 2017, recognising the rapid decline of this globally significant population due to bycatch.

The Executive Secretary further stated that “Incidental mortality in fisheries continues to be the most serious threat facing these threatened seabirds and international cooperation is required to confront this.  Despite all the research and attention devoted to the development of best practice bycatch mitigation measures, these have not been used sufficiently extensively to stop the decline in the numbers of many albatross and petrel species.”

She closed her statement with a mention of World Albatross Day, which will be celebrated for the first time on 19 June 2020.  She noted that each country can undertake whatever activities it chooses to commemorate these wonderful birds.

View the proposals for listing (UNEP/CMS/COP13/Doc.27.1.7) and for Concerted Action (UNEP/CMS/COP13/Doc.28.2.12) and the closing CMS press release.

The theme for COP13 was “Migratory species connect the planet and we welcome them home”.  Listen to and view the theme song and video.

IMG 0498

IMG 0499

.A  Whale Shark Rhincodon typus on display at CMS13

With thanks to Barry Baker and Kitty Harvill.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer 27 February 2020

Catching up with Wisdom: the oldest known albatrosses and petrels on Bird Island, South Atlantic

Grey headed Albatross Stephanie Prince Grisselle Chock shrunk

Grey-headed Albatross No. 1425643, painted by Grisselle Chock for Artists and Biologists Unite for Nature (ABUN) from the photograph below

Albatross and petrel studies have continued for another year at Bird Island, South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*, adding to long-term datasets held by the British Antarctic Survey.  Previous ACAP Latest News postings on Wisdom the female Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis of Midway Atoll, who reached the ripe old age of at least 69 this year, prompted the obvious question “which are the oldest birds on Bird Island?”.  A check of demography and ringing recovery databases generated the following information on the oldest birds ringed on the island as chicks.

Species

Source

Ring No.

First year recorded

Last year recorded

Age

Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris

Demography studies

1318916

1961

2018

57

Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma

Demography studies

1425643

1959

2019

60

Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans

Demography studies

5054645

1962

2019

57

Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli

Ring recovery

2860107

1961

2004

43

Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus

Ring recovery

5223985

1974

2014

41

The initial ringing effort of Lance Tickell and colleagues in the late 1950s and early 1960s is clearly in evidence.  Although there are currently sixty-year old birds on the island, only time will tell whether these longevity records are broken.

oldest gha Steph Prince shrunk

Grey-headed Albatross No. 1425643, photograph taken six years ago by Stephanie Prince, who has identified it as a male

Read an earlier ALN post on Grey-headed Albatross No. 1425643 now six years older, and still the oldest known bird on Bird Island.

Andy Wood, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK, 26 February 2020

*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.

Advance party leaves Cape Town for Gough Island to eradicate its introduced mice – and save the Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross

Gonydale poem Michelle Risi 9

Tristan Albatrosses on Gough Island, photograph by Michelle Risi

The first team members of the Gough Island Restoration Programme (GIRP) have left for the island.  The main aim of the programme being led by the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB is the eradication of the island’s introduced House Mice Mus musculus by an aerial poison bait in a few months’ time.  The mice have taken to attacking seabird chicks and are deemed to be pushing some of them, notably the Critically Endangered and near-endemic Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, to extinction.  The start of the GIRP has come after more than a decade of on-island research and several years of planning to put together the eradication effort.

Poster Owen Davey FINAL

The advance party sailed on the New Zealand-registered expedition yacht Evohe from Cape Town harbour on Tuesday last week.  ACAP Latest News met with some of the team a few days before to wish them well and to ask them to courier a couple of items to the South African meteorological station on the island on behalf of the Agreement.  With the support of the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa an A3 laminated version of Owen Davey’s World Albatross Day poster has been printed and is now on its way to Gough, there to be displayed in the small laboratory in Gough House, the main accommodation block at the station.  Michelle Risi, one of three field biologists currently monitoring the Tristan Albatrosses (and other seabirds) on the island, is the person who first suggested to ACAP that it consider inaugurating a World Albatross Day, and she also made the contact that resulted in Owen Davey producing his poster free of charge.  Appropriate, then, that she will be able to continue her lab work next to the ‘WAD2020’ poster she instigated.

Michelle Risi Gough

Michelle Risi records the band number of a displaying Tristan Albatross on Gough Island

With thanks to Kate Lawrence, Gough Island Restoration Programme and Ria Olivier, Antarctic Legacy of South Africa.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 February 2020

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