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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First record of a South Atlantic Wandering Albatross breeding in the southern Indian Ocean

A female Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans carrying British Museum of Natural History band No. 4001481 has been reported by the Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé breeding on Île de la Possession, French Crozet Islands in the southern Indian Ocean during January 2014.

This bird was banded as a chick on 17 November 2005 in Wanderer Valley on Bird Island in the South Atlantic by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).  It has not been recorded back on the island since it fledged.

According to BAS records this is the first time a Bird Island bird has been seen ashore in the Crozets.  However, a French Wanderer (BS6639) banded as a chick in the Crozets on 8 January 1976 was recorded on Bird Island four years later on 25 January 1980: at quite a young age for a Wanderer to return to land.

In contrast, within the southern Indian Ocean interchange of over 60 Wandering Albatrosses has occurred between Possession and South Africa’s Marion and Prince Edward Islands, 1068 km apart, including of at least 19 fledglings from one locality breeding at the other.

Wandering Albatrosses on Bird Island, photograph by Richard Phillips

With thanks to Richard Phillips, Henri Weimerskirch and Andy Wood for information.

Selected Literature:

Cooper, J. & Weimerskirch, H. 2003.  Exchange of Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans between the Prince Edward and Crozet Islands: implications for conservation.  African Journal of Marine Science 25: 519-523.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 March 2014

ACAP Breeding Site No. 64. Albatross Island, a monitoring site for Wandering Albatrosses and giant petrels in the South Atlantic

Albatross Island (c. 100 ha) lies in the Bay of Isles towards the northern end of South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* in the South Atlantic.

Approaching tussac-covered Albatross Island, photograph by Anton Wolfaardt

North-east Point on Albatross Island

The island’s vegetation is made up primarily of Tussac Grass Parodiochloa flabellataUnlike nearby Prion Island, Albatross Island is not open to tourism.  Although listed as a Specially Protected Area (SPA) it has not been formally so designated.  A permit is required to make a landing and a Code of Conduct has to be followed.  Albatross Island has been closed to all but researchers since 2004 and permits are issued only "under exceptional circumstances".  Unlike the nearby main island of South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*, Albatross Island has remained rodent free.

Annual visits to monitor incubating Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans and other seabirds commenced in 1999 (click here).  A total of 129 pairs of Wandering Albatrosses was recorded on Albatross Island in January 2010, a continuing decrease from 140 pairs in 2009 and 174 pairs in 1999.  However, in 2012 140 pairs were present (click here), with 135 occupied nests reported for 2011, 133 in 2013 and 144 in  January 2014, the highest since 2008 (151) (click here).

"The surveyors think the pattern of numbers of breeding birds on the two islands [Albatross and Prion] in recent years shows the population is stabilising (with fluctuations), and is no longer decreasing over the longer term. However, without a wider survey of the population on the neighbouring islands, there is a possibility that the increase on these two islands may be influenced by birds from other islands moving from depleted colonies to areas where there are more birds. It is likely this possibility will be further assessed next year as a wider survey is currently at an early stage of planning."

Researchers' camp site on Albatross Island

 

Wanderers on Albatross Island, with the main island as a backdrop

Photographs by Sally Poncet unless stated

Four to nine pairs of Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetria fusca have been recorded on the island from 2008 to 2103.

Study colonies on Albatross Island in January 2010 supported 35 pairs of Southern Macronectes giganteus and 27 pairs of Northern M. halli Giant Petrels.  Equivalent figures for the 2012/2013 breeding season are 45 and 20.  Nest failure of giant petrels in 2010 is thought to have been due to heavy snowfalls earlier in the season with many recently abandoned nests seen in January 2010 (click here).  In the 1980s censuses on Albatross Island revealed 173 pairs of Southern and 89 pairs of Northern Giant Petrels.  Complete-island surveys in 1999 resulted in 216 pairs of Southerns and 89 pairs of Northerns, suggesting a level of stability.

In addition to the four ACAP-listed species above, the  White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis breeds on Albatross Island.  Monitoring of this burrow-nesting species is no longer carried out on the island due to concerns over habitat damage from trampling.  Antarctic Prions Pachyptila desolata, Blue Petrels Halobaena caerulea, Wilson’s Storm Petrels Oceanites oceanicus and Common Diving Petrels Pelecanoides urinatrix also breed in burrows on the island.

With thanks to Jennifer Lee, Sally Poncet and Anton Wolfaardt for information and photographs.

Selected Literature:

Burton, R. 2005.  South Georgia.  Second Edition.  [Stanley]: South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.  48 pp.

Burton, R. & Croxall, J.P. (Eds). 2012.  A Field Guide to the Wildlife of South Georgia.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.  WILDGuides & South Georgia Heritage Trust.  200 pp.

Croxall, J.P., Prince, P.A., Rothery, P. & Wood, A.G. 1998.  Population changes in albatrosses at South Georgia.  In: Robertson, G. & Gales, R. (Eds).  Albatross Biology and Conservation.  Chipping Norton: Surrey Beatty and Sons.  pp. 69-83.

Galbraith, D. 2011.  A Field Guide to the Flora of South Georgia.  Dundee: South Georgia Heritage Trust & WILDGuides.  72 pp.

Patterson, D.L., Woehler, E.J., Croxall, J.P., Cooper, J., Poncet, S., Peter, H.-U., Hunter, S. & Fraser, M.W. 2008.  Breeding distribution and population status of the Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli and Southern Giant Petrel M. giganteus.  Marine Ornithology 36: 115-124.

Martin, A.R., Poncet, S., Barbraud, C., Foster, E., Fretwell, P. & Rothery, P. 2009.  The white-chinned petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis) on South Georgia: population size, distribution and global significance.  Polar Biology 32: 655-661.

McIntosch, E. & Walton, D.W.H. 2000.  Environmental Management Plan for South Georgia.  Cambridge: British Antarctic Survey.  105 pp.

Pasteur, L. & Walton, D.W.H. 2006.  South Georgia: Plan for Progress.  Managing the Environment. 2006-2010.  Cambridge: British Antarctic Survey: 74 pp.

Poncet, S. 2006.  South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.  In: Sanders, S.M. (Ed.).  Important Bird Areas in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories.  Sandy: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.  pp. 211-226.

Poncet, S. 2010.  SGS Albatross and Prion Islands Monitoring Programme 2010 Report. Stanley: South Georgia Surveys unpublished report.  11 pp.

Poncet, S. & Crosbie, K. 2012.  A Visitor's Guide to South Georgia.  Second Edition.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.  184 pp.

Poncet, S., Robertson, G., Phillips, R.A., Lawton, K., Phalan, B., Trathan, P.N. & Croxall, J.P. 2006.  Status and distribution of wandering, black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses at South Georgia.  Polar Biology 29: 772-781.

Wolfaardt, A. & Christie, D. 2010.  Guidelines for the implementation of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) at South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.  Stanley: Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.  51 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 March 2014

*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.

SCAR and COMNAP Antarctic Research Fellowships and CCAMLR Scientific Scholarships for 2014 on offer

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP) and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) are working together to attract talented early-career researchers, scientists, engineers and other professionals to strengthen international capacity and cooperation in fields such as climate, biodiversity, conservation, humanities and astrophysics research.

The SCAR and COMNAP Fellowships are worth up to US$15 000 each and up to five fellowships in total are on offer for 2014.  The fellowships enable early-career researchers to join a project team from another country, opening up new opportunities and often creating research partnerships that last many years and over many Antarctic research seasons.  The deadline for SCAR and COMNAP applications is 4 June 2014.

The SCAR and COMNAP schemes are launched in conjunction with the CCAMLR Scientific Scholarship Scheme.  The CCAMLR Scholarship provides funding of up to AU$ 30 000 to assist early-career scientists to participate in the work of the CCAMLR Scientific Committee and its working groups over a period of two years. The scheme was established in 2010 and a maximum of three awards will be made in 2014.  The objective of the scheme is to build capacity within the CCAMLR scientific community to help generate and sustain the scientific expertise needed to support the work of CCAMLR in the long term.  The deadline for CCAMLR applications is 1 October 2014.

Light-mantled Sooty Albatross chick, photograph by Aleks Terauds

For more information on SCAR and COMNAP Fellowships, visit the SCAR website or the COMNAP website.  For information on CCAMLR Scholarships, visit the CCAMLR website.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 March 2014

No introduced Reindeer remain on a South Atlantic seabird island

The introduced Reindeer Rangifer tarandus of South Georgia (Isla Georgias del Sur)* are no more.  Following the removal of the Busen herd in January and February last year (click here) this year attention switched to the animals on the Barff Peninsula.

The second phase got underway on 3 January when six hunters from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate were deployed to shoot the remaining animals on the peninsula, following the shooting of 1555 Reindeer there in 2013 (click here).

A Reindeer on South Georgia (Isla Georgias del Sur)*, photograph by Martin Collins

“Despite challenging terrain and some of the worst summer weather in recent years, the marksmen completed systematic searches of all areas with reindeer and shot 3,140 animals in a six-week period.  In the coming months, the area will be thoroughly checked to ensure that it has been cleared.”

The FPV Pharos SG acted as a support vessel, assisting in the deployment of the shooters and their gear.  The shooters were based in tented field camps as well as field huts.  Meat was recovered from some of the animals shot for local consumption.  Observers were posted in St Andrews Bay during shooting in the area to observe the effect of shooting on the King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus colony and to ensure there was no disturbance to the birds.

With the over 1900 animals eliminated from the Busen area of the island last year over 6600 Reindeer have now been removed from the island (click here).

“Alongside the work to remove reindeer, several scientific research projects were undertaken, including the collection of samples for genetic analysis and filming for behavioural research.  Science teams have also continued to monitor vegetation and bird communities [including of ACAP-listed burrowing White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis] to track the recovery of the island’s systems after the eradication.  Although it will take a number of years for the full benefits of the eradication to be realised, there are early signs of vegetation recovery, especially in the Busen area, which has now been free from reindeer for almost a year.”

Habitat to improve for White-chinned Petrels without Reindeer?

Photograph by Ben Phalan

Click here for another news item on the successful Reindeer eradication.

With thanks to Jennifer Lee for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 February 2014

*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.

Proposed Aotea Conservation Park should help improve conservation status of New Zealand’s endemic Black Petrel

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation is considering declaring a conservation park on parts of Great Barrier Island (Aotea) lying 80 km north-east of Auckland and has called for public comment with a deadline of month end (click here).

The ACAP-listed and Vulnerable Black or Parkinson’s Petrel Procellaria parkinsoni breeding locality on Great Barrier Island, known as the Hirakimata/Kaitoke Swamp Ecological Area, will fall within the proposed Aotea Conservation Park.

Black Petrel at its breeding site, photograph by David Boyle

 Black Petrel breeding habitat on Great Barrier Island, photograph by Biz Bell

Elizabeth (Biz) Bell, Black Petrel researcher with Wildlife Management International writes to ACAP:

“I personally think this is a good development as the move in New Zealand at the moment is to develop partnerships between different interest groups and stakeholders to protect and enhance important areas.  This proposal will be another layer of protection – and a management group to make decisions on use and changes.  Added protection may also mean there are more options for obtaining personnel to undertake predator control and wider funding options.”

Read the proposal's discussion document here.

Click here for an NGO view on the proposed new park with a call for a national park instead.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 February 2014

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