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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No seas safe: three Mediterranean shearwater species are loaded with plastic

Marina Codina-García (Departament de Biologia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain) and colleagues write in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on plastic loads in three species of Mediterranean shearwaters recovered from longlines.  One of the species studied, the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, is listed within ACAP, the other two are potential candidate species for listing.

The paper’s abstract follows

“Plastic debris is often ingested by marine predators and can cause health disorders and even death.  We present the first assessment of plastic ingestion in Mediterranean seabirds.  We quantified and measured plastics accumulated in the stomach of 171 birds from 9 species accidentally caught by longliners in the western Mediterranean from 2003 to 2010.  Cory’s [=Scopoli's] shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) showed the highest occurrence (94%) and large numbers of small plastic particles per affected bird (on average N= 15.3 ± 24.4 plastics and mass = 23.4 ± 49.6 mg), followed by Yelkouan shearwaters (Puffinus yelkouan, 70%, N= 7.0 ± 7.9, 42.1 ± 100.0 mg), Balearic shearwaters (Puffinus mauretanicus, 70%, N= 3.6 ± 2.9, 5.5 ± 9.7 mg) and the rest of species (below 33%, N= 2.7, 113.6 ± 128.4 mg).  Plastic characteristics did not differ between sexes and were not related to the physical condition of the birds.  Our results point out the three endemic and threatened shearwater species as being particularly exposed to plastic accumulation.”

Yelkouan Shearwater

Click here for a report on the study.

Reference:

Codina-García, M., Militão, T., Moreno, J. & González-Solís, J. 2013.  Plastic debris in Mediterranean seabirds.  Marine Pollution Bulletin 77: 220-226.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 April 2013

Selecting marine IBAs in the southern Indian Ocean utilizing albatross, petrel and penguin tracking data from Crozet, Kerguelen and Amsterdam Islands

Karine Delord (CEBC-CNRS, Villiers-en-bois, France) and colleagues have published in the journal Marine Policy on selecting candidate marine IBAs utilizing seabird-tracking data in the southern Indian Ocean.  ACAP-listed species included in the data set are Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans, Amsterdam Albatross D. amsterdamensis, Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche carteri, White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis and Grey Petrel P. cinerea.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Seabirds are increasingly threatened worldwide, with population declines for many species that are faster than in any other group of birds.  Here the Important Bird Area (IBA) criteria recommended by BirdLife International were applied to a large tracking dataset collected from a range of seabirds, to identify areas of importance at an ocean basin scale.  Key areas were identified using tracks obtained from both the breeding and non-breeding periods of 10 species that have different habitat requirements.  These species range in their IUCN threat status from Least Concern to Critically Endangered.  An evaluation of spatial overlap between the key areas for these species and the jurisdiction of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), national Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and other stakeholder bodies highlighted the major importance of the French EEZs (around Crozet, Kerguelen and Amsterdam Islands) for seabird conservation.  The majority of the candidate marine IBAs that were identified were located in the High Seas, where Marine Protected Areas cannot easily be designated under existing international agreements, except in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources Convention Area.  In the short term, it seems that only fisheries regulations (through international agreements) can bring about efficient protection for seabirds in the High Seas.  The BirdLife IBA approach, although sensitive to heterogeneity in the data (species selected, inclusion of different life stages, years etc.), proved valuable for selecting important areas corresponding to large-scale oceanographic structures that are considered to be key foraging habitats for many species.”

Wandering Albatrosses display on Ile de la Possession, Iles Crozet

Photograph by Franck Theron

With thanks to Richard Phillips for information.

Reference:

Delord, K., Barbraud, C., Bost, C.-A., Deceuninck, B., Lefebvre, T., Lutz, R., Micol, T., Phillips, R.A., Trathan, P.N. & Weimerskirch, H. 2014.  Areas of importance for seabirds tracked from French southern territories, and recommendations for conservation.  Marine Policy 48: 1-13.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 April 2014

Importance of French Marine Protected Areas for the conservation of the Yelkouan Shearwater

Clara Péron (CEFE-CNRS, Montpellier, France) and colleagues have published in the journal Biological Conservation on the at-sea ecology of Yelkouan Shearwaters Puffinus yelkouan in the western Mediterranean in relation to French Marine Protected Areas.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are being established across all marine regions but their validity for the conservation of highly mobile marine vertebrates has been questioned.  We tested the hypothesis that French coastal MPAs primarily designed for coastal and benthic biota are also beneficial for the conservation of a pelagic seabird, the Vulnerable yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), an endemic species to the Mediterranean Sea.  We used a vast spectrum of electronic devices (GPS, temperature-depth-recorders, satellite transmitters and geolocators) and stable isotopic analyses to study the year-round movements and the trophic status of yelkouan shearwaters from the Hyères archipelago (France).  In addition we conducted large-scale ship and aircrafts observation surveys to investigate spatio-temporal density patterns of shearwaters (genus Puffinus) in the western Mediterranean Sea.  This extensive investigation permitted the first comprehensive study of the at-sea ecology of yelkouan shearwaters showing strikingly coastal habits, partial migration, unsuspected diving capabilities (max dive depth of 30 m), and a broad diet ranging from zooplankton to small pelagic fish.  Importantly, 31% of yelkouan shearwaters GPS positions associated with foraging, 38% of diving positions, and 27% of resting positions were within the three French MPAs during the breeding season.  These high scores confirmed by year-round distribution derived from GLS, PTTs, at-sea and aerial observations, validated our hypothesis of the major importance of coastal MPAs for the conservation of yelkouan shearwater.  Our case-study is therefore a major contribution to research efforts aiming at linking the spatial ecology of highly mobile marine vertebrates with effective conservation of marine biodiversity.”

Yelkouan Shearwater at sea

Reference:

Péron, C., Grémillet, D.,  Prudor, A.,  Pettex, E., Saraux, C., Soriano-Redondo, A.,  Authier, M. & Fort, J. 2013.  Importance of coastal Marine Protected Areas for the conservation of pelagic seabirds: The case of Vulnerable yelkouan shearwaters in the Mediterranean Sea.  Biological Conservation 168: 210-221.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 April 2014

Hip-hip for MIPEP! Macquarie Island is formally declared alien mammal-free after a seven-year eradication programme

Australia’s World Heritage-listed Macquarie Island has been formally declared free of all alien mammals this week after a near-seven-year campaign to eradicate European Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus, Black Rats Rattus rattus and the House Mouse Mus musculus by the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Programme (MIPEP).  This news follows the earlier eradication of feral Domestic Cats Felis catus from the island.

In 2007, the Australian Federal and Tasmanian Governments jointly funded an AUS$25 million project to eradicate introduced pests from the 12 785-ha island, utilizing poison bait dropped by helicopters followed by hunting with specially-trained dogs.  No pets have been detected for the past two years and the eradication effort has been declared a success.

A Macquarie Island view, photograph by Aleks Terauds 

Project Manager Keith Springer stated to the media: "We've had teams that have scoured the island by day and by night, covering a total of 92,000 km on the island, in terms of their tracked travel, searching every nook and cranny that they could access, to make sure that there's none left, no rabbit and no rodent” (click here).  The latest team and their dogs have now returned from “Macca” to Hobart in Tasmania where they received commemorative dog tags recognizing their contribution in an awards presentation. The hunters got a badge.

The Macca dogs get their tags in Hobart, photograph by Justine Shaw

Macquarie Island is now the World’s largest island by far from which House Mice have been eradicated.  The previous record was New Zealand’s linked Motutapu and Rangitoto Islands at a combined area of 3800 ha (click here).  This success has significant implications for (and offers encouragement towards) plans to eradicate mice on the smaller islands of Gough (6400 ha) in the South Atlantic and Antipodes (2025 ha) south of New Zealand.

With a pest-free Macca now a reality, biosecurity measures for all shipping to the island have been improved in a joint programme between the Australian Antarctic Division and the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.

Read the official press release on MIPEP's sucess here.

Click here for previous coverage in ACAP Latest News of the eradication effort on Macquarie Island.

With thanks to Justine Shaw, Keith Springer and Aleks Terauds for information and the photographs.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 09 April 2014

Four great albatross species are at risk from longliners off Uruguay: night setting an insufficient mitigation measure during full moon

Sebastián Jiménez (Laboratorio de Recursos Pelágicos, Dirección Nacional de Recursos Acuáticos, Montevideo, Uruguay) and colleagues have published in the journal Biological Conservation on four species of great albatrosses Diomedea spp. killed by longliners in waters off Uruguay in the south-west Atlantic Ocean.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Pelagic longline fisheries in the southwest Atlantic are a major conservation concern for several threatened seabirds, including four species of great albatrosses: wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena), southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora) and northern royal albatross (Diomedea sanfordi).  The aim of this study was to examine the spatial and temporal variation in bycatch rates of these species, and to identify the contributing environmental and operational factors.  We used data collected by observers on board pelagic longliners in the Uruguayan fleet in 2004–2011, and on Japanese vessels operating in Uruguay under an experimental fishing license in 2009–2011.  Bycatch rates for northern and southern royal albatrosses were higher than expected based on previous reports, particularly over the shelf break.  Wandering and Tristan albatrosses were caught predominantly in pelagic waters, where there are numerous fishing fleets from other flag states.  Bycatch of great albatrosses was highest in April–November, with the peak for royal albatrosses in June–July, and for wandering and Tristan albatrosses in September–November.  A range of vessel operational practices and habitat variables affected bycatch rates, among which setting time, moon phase, area and season are useful in terms of risk assessment, and in the development and improvement of conservation measures for these highly threatened species.”

Colour-banded Tristan Albatross from Gough Island off Uruguay

Photograph by Martin Abreu

With thanks to Barry Baker for information.

Reference:

Jiménez, S., Phillips, R.A.,  Brazeiro, A.,  Defeo, O. & Domingo, A. 2014.  Bycatch of great albatrosses in pelagic longline fisheries in the southwest Atlantic: contributing factors and implications for management.  Biological Conservation 171: 9-20.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 8 April 2014

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