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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Conserving albatrosses and other seabirds on Mexican islands

A breeding Laysan Albatross pair on Mexico's Clarion Island, photograph by Ross Wanless

Yuri Albores Barajas (CONACYT, Mexico City, Mexico) and colleagues have published open access in the journal Waterbirds on the conservation of Mexican seabirds, inc luding Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes and Laysan P. immutabilis albatrosses that breed on several of the country’s offshore islands.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“In Northwestern Mexico, approximately 40 breeding species of seabirds have been reported, with several threats (e.g., invasive species introduction and habitat loss) affecting the viability of their populations. As such, it is necessary to take action for their protection. To prioritize conservation activities, 119 reports (governamental [sic] agency monitoring programs, grey literature, and scientific literature) were analyzed for research and monitoring results from 1922-2018 (93 of 119 published after 1990) and ranked the different islands (91 sites, including archipelagos with multiple islands) based on their breeding seabird communities (35 species in 11 seabird families, including 7 endemic breeders). For the ranking exercise, three criteria were considered: conservation category, preferred habitat, and foraging guild for each species. Taking into consideration the breeding species on each island, an index to rank the islands was created. Ten islands or archipelagos have high conservation priority (index score > 10 = high priority; mean index = 4.7, median = 5.0, max = 17.9, n = 91), and the most important are: Revillagigedo and San Benito archipelagos, Coronado, San Lorenzo, and Natividad Islands. It is necessary to use new tools and techniques to determine populations' sizes and trends and to create a baseline to compare with future studies. Furthermore, many of the species breeding or feeding in the Mexican Economic Exclusive Zone migrate to other latitudes, elevating the conservation problem to an international scale.”

Reference:

Albores Barajas, Y., de la Cueva, H., Soldatini, C., Carmona, R., Ayala Pérez, V., Martinez-Gómez, J. & Velarde, E. 2020.  Challenges and priorities for seabird conservation in northwestern Mexico.  Waterbirds 43(1).  doi.org/10.1675/063.043.0101.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 June 2020

Hawaii’s Molokai Land Trust works to create a new Laysan Albatross colony – and offers its support for World Albatross Day

Molokai Land Trust logo shrunk 

Molokai (260 km²) is the fifth largest of the “high” eastern islands in the Hawaiian Archipelago, along with the larger and more well-known islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and Oahu.  The Molokai Land Trust has as its mission “ to protect and restore the land, natural and cultural resources of Moloka’i, and to perpetuate the unique Native Hawaiian traditions and character of the islands for the benefit of the future generations of all Moloka’i, particularly Native Hawaiians”.

 

Along with other organizations the trust is working towards creating a new breeding colony of globally Near Threatened Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis on Molokai, utilizing decoys, broadcasting of calls and by erecting a predator-proof fence.  Such colonies are regarded as “insurance” against the risks albatrosses face on the low-lowing atolls in the North-Western Hawaiian islands from climate-changed sea level rise and an increased incidence of storm surges.

Butch Haase dshrunk

Butch Haase, Executive Director, Molokai Land Trust

Following reaching out, ACAP Latest News has heard from William "Butch" Haase, Executive Director of the Molokai Land Trust in support of this year’s inaugural World Albatross Day:

"Molokai Land Trust is proud to support World Albatross Day coming up on June 19th.  We have been working hard to create suitable protected habitat to support a Laysan Albatross nesting colony on the island of Molokai, Hawaii.  We are looking to expand the project to 90 acres [36 ha] within a new predator-proof fence in the upcoming year with our partners American Bird Conservancy and the US Fish & Wildlife Service Coastal Program, Pacific Islands Area Office.”

The Molokai Land Trust is one of number of environmental NGOs working to improve the conservation status of albatrosses and other seabirds on the Hawaiian Islands from Kure in the west to Hawaii (“Big Island”) in the east.  Pleasingly, many of them have already offered their support for ‘WAD2020’, as reflected in these pages.

With thanks to Butch Haase, Executive Director, Molokai Land Trust.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 June 2020

New Zealand gets a new National Plan of Action - Seabirds

NZ NPOA 

“Better protection for seabirds is being put in place with a new National Plan of Action to reduce fishing-related captures, Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced [last week].”

The Plan’s Executive Summary follows:

“New Zealand is a centre of seabird biodiversity: of an estimated 346 seabird species, there are approximately 145 species that use New Zealand waters, and 95 species that breed in New Zealand. Many of these species’ activities overlap with fishing, which can lead to the bycatch1 of seabirds. The National Plan of Action‑Seabirds 2020: reducing the incidental mortality of seabirds in fisheries (NPOA Seabirds 2020), outlines the New Zealand Government’s ongoing commitment to reducing bycatch of seabirds in our fisheries.

The NPOA Seabirds 2020, like its predecessors, stems from a recommendation made in the UN (United Nations) Food and Agriculture Organisation’s International plan of action for reducing incidental catch of seabirds in longline fisheries (IPOA-Seabirds) in 1999.

The NPOA Seabirds 2020 is New Zealand’s third iteration of a national plan of action. New Zealand has embarked on a programme of transformational change in our fisheries management to ensure that our fisheries are world-leading in their sustainability and environmental performance. At the end of this period, we expect to have significantly increased monitoring and more responsible, low-impact fishing practices.

In recognition of this path to change, this NPOA Seabirds 2020 focuses on education, partnering to find innovative solutions to bycatch mitigation, and ensuring that all fishers know how and are taking all practicable steps to avoiding seabird bycatch.

In five years, monitoring capabilities will have expanded and we will have better information on seabird populations and how to avoid captures. This will allow for more direct management, including consideration of mortality limits or other approaches as appropriate. We also expect that we will have a better understanding of seabird populations and behaviours, which will help us to identify other ways that we can ensure the long-term viability of our seabird species.

This NPOA Seabirds 2020 establishes the framework that the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Fisheries New Zealand will use to work together on seabird initiatives.

The NPOA Seabirds 2020’s vision is New Zealanders work towards zero fishing-related seabird mortalities.

Guided by this vision, the NPOA Seabirds 2020 has four goals:

1. Avoiding bycatch — effective bycatch mitigation practices are implemented in New Zealand fisheries

2. Healthy seabird populations — direct effects of New Zealand fishing do not threaten seabird populations or  their recovery

3. Research and information — information to effectively manage direct fisheries effects on seabirds is continuously improved

4. International engagement — New Zealand actively engages internationally to promote measures and practices that reduce impacts on New Zealand seabirds

Each goal has objectives to be achieved within the next five years. We will report on our progress towards these objectives in a Seabird Annual Report, and will use the information it contains to set the following year’s priorities in a Seabird Implementation Plan. After five years, we will review the achievements and challenges of the NPOA Seabirds 2020.

The Seabird Advisory Group (comprising representatives from government agencies, key stakeholder groups and tangata whenua) will meet periodically to monitor and help implement the NPOA Seabirds 2020, and to consider new or arising matters related to the impacts on seabirds from fisheries.”

Read an media review of the plan.

With thanks to Igor Debski, New Zealand Department of Conservation.

Reference:

Fisheries New Zealand & Department of Conservation 2020.  National Plan of ActionSeabirds 2020.  Reducing the Incidental Mortality of Seabirds in Fisheries.  Wellington: Fisheries New Zealand.  21 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 June 2020

Ouch! Sperm Whales flinch as giant petrels prey on their flesh

 

Southern Giant Petrel at sea, photograph by Warwick Barnes

Jarred Towers (Bay Cetology, Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada) and Nicolas Gasco have published in the journal Polar Biology on giant petrels attacking Sperm Whales.

The abstract follows:

“Relationships between seabirds and cetaceans can vary from symbiotic to predatory.  At high latitude seas in the Southern Hemisphere, giant petrels (Macronectes spp.) and male sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are often solitary, but commercial longlining for Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) provides consistent feeding opportunities that result in persistent aggregations of both.  From ~ 1997 to 2019, we opportunistically photographed 23 events where individual giant petrels preyed on the flesh. of live sperm whales that were depredating from Patagonian toothfish longliners near South Georgia, Crozet, and Kerguelen Islands.  Both immature and adult southern (M. giganteus) and northern (M. halli) giant petrels were implicated in these predation events.  Sperm whales reacted to attacks from one or more giant petrels by sinking or flinching, and then arching, rolling, diving, and snorkelling at the surface during subsequent predation attempts.  Depredating sperm whales will dive deep, fast, and for long periods which can result in limited dive ability while replenishing oxygen stores at the surface.  This behaviour, and the relatively high density of both species around longlining vessels may facilitate unique opportunities for giant petrels to exploit live sperm whales that are not likely as common under circumstances not sustained by longlining operations.”

Reference:

Towers, J.R., Gasco, N. 2020.  Giant petrels (Macronectes spp.) prey on depredating sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). Polar Biology doi.org/10.1007/s00300-020-02687-2.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 June 2020

The Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust wholeheartedly endorses World Albatross Day

Huttons SCTrust

The globally Endangered and Nationally Vulnerable Hutton’s Shearwater Puffinus huttoni is a New Zealand endemic that breeds only in coastal mountains near Kaikoura on South Island.  It is at risk at its only two breeding sites to feral pigs and earthquake-induced avalanches and to light pollution in the town of Kaikoura (click here)ACAP Latest News is pleased to hear that the Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust (HSCT) “wholeheartedly endorses and supports” the celebration of the inaugural World Albatross Day (WAD 2020) on 19 June.

Lorna Deppe, Chair of the Trust’s Scientific Committee writes to ALN:

It is the Trust’s mission “to encourage and promote the conservation, research, education and sustainable management of the endangered Hutton's Shearwater.”  Raising public awareness for the threats these birds are facing is a big part of our work and naturally we want to be part of WAD’s mission to “increase global awareness of the conservation crisis facing albatrosses and petrels”.

 Lorna Deppe Huttons Shearwater chick

Lorna Deppe with a Hutton’s Shearwater “fluffball”, photograph by Ailsa Howard

While we focus on keeping Hutton’s Shearwaters safe while ‘on the ground’ at their breeding colonies in Kaikoura, New Zealand, we are aware that ensuring their survival at sea is the much bigger challenge and needs global collaboration.  WAD2020 is a wonderful opportunity to connect not only organisations but each and every one of us in order to do our part in this important quest.

Kaikoura is famous for the variety of albatross species feeding close to the coast due to upwelling from the Kaikoura Canyon, and naturally we are very fond of our Hutton’s Shearwaters’ big brothers and the opportunity to get eye-to-eye with these magnificent birds when out on a boat.  Sometimes even our shearwaters catch a ride with Encounter Kaikouras albatross tours, when rescued and released after crash-landing in Kaikoura due to light disorientation.

Let’s work together to make our oceans a safe place again for these beautiful spirits of the sea!

Lorna Deppe, Chair of Scientific Committee, Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust, Kaikoura, New Zealand, with John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 07 June 2020

 Huttons Shearwater flock Lorna Deppe

Hutton’s Shearwaters flocking at sea, photograph by Lorna Deppe

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