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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A South Atlantic NGO lends its support to next year's World Albatross Day

Falklands Conservation is a small non-governmental organisation affiliated to BirdLife International that works to protect wildlife in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  “We undertake practical conservation projects, surveys and scientific studies, conduct annual monitoring of seabird populations, rehabilitate oiled penguins, publish guides and information on many aspects of the Falkland Islands environment, and involve Islanders of all ages in our activities.”  ACAP Latest News has been in touch with the NGO over next year’s inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June.

WAD Logo












In response, the NGO’s Chief Executive Officer, Esther Bertram has written in support of the day to ACAP Latest News: “Get ready for World Albatross Day on 19 June 2020.  A chance to celebrate these fabulous birds.  Living into their 60s, having the longest wingspan of any bird, spending much of their life in the air and being ridiculously attractive, what’s not to like?!”





 Conservation Manager Andy Stanworth at Falklands Conservation writes: “The first World Albatross Day will raise awareness of the significant threats and challenges currently facing these amazing birds.  Let’s hope that in the future it is simply to celebrate them!”






 Falkland Conservation’s Conservation Officer, Sarah Crofts, who works on penguin and albatross monitoring in the islands, has also commented to ACAP Latest News: “World Albatross Day brings awareness on the global conservation plight of these extraordinarily long-lived ocean navigators.  It also celebrates the efforts achieved by scientists, conservationists, governments and industry working together to sustain albatross populations into the future.”





 Three ACAP-listed species breed in the Falkland Islands: Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris, Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus and White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis.  ACAP is exploring with Falklands Conservation how to collaborate further on raising awareness of the inaugural World Albatross Day next year, centred on these three species.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 November 2019

*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.


Help coming for fledging Westland Petrels with plans to hood street lights

The New Zealand Transport Agency is sourcing hoods for the street lights around Punakaiki on the western coast of South Island to minimise the fallout problem for the globally Endangered and ACAP-listed Westland Petrel Procellaria westlandica.

A downed Westland Petrel fledgling is released to sea the next day

The existing lights have led to groundings of fledglings in past seasons, with some birds then being hit and killed by vehicles at night (click here).

"Westland petrel chicks are leaving the nest for the first time between November and January and can be disorientated by lights and poor weather at the very start of their long journey to South America.  90% of petrels found downed due to disorientation by lights are fledglings.  Tragically, many are disorientated by vehicle or street lights and come down on roads.  Black birds on a black road at night are highly likely to be involved in a collision and are often killed.  They also need height to launch themselves, so if they come down on the road, they are likely to be stranded" (read more here).

Information from the Westland Petrel Conservation Trust.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 November 2019

The World Seabird Union joins other NGOs in lending its support to next year’s World Albatross Day

Earlier in the year ACAP's Advisory Committee declared that a conservation crisis continues to be faced by its 31 listed species, with thousands of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters dying every year as a result of fishery operations.  To increase awareness of this crisis ACAP will inaugurate a World Albatross Day to be held annually on 19 June from 2020, the date the Agreement was signed in 2004.

In order to increase awareness of and gain support for next year’s inauguration, ACAP has been contacting various non-governmental organizations and bodies around the world which are involved with issues relating to the conservation of seabirds, especially of those albatrosses and their kin of the order Procellariiformes.  The Word Seabird Union (WSU) is one of these NGOs which has responded positively.  The Union was founded during the 1st World Seabird Conference, held in Victoria, Canada in 2010, which was followed by a second conference, held in Cape Town, South Africa in 2015 (the third conference in the series will follow next year in Hobart, Australia).  The WSU's mission is to place seabird research, management, and conservation into a worldwide perspective.  “Our vision is to aid in creating global partnerships that will continue into the future by sharing research, knowledge, and ideas on a global level”.

Patrick Jodice of the South Carolina Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit at Clemson University in the USA is the current Chair of the World Seabird Union.  He writes to ACAP Latest News:  “The World Seabird Union fully supports World Albatross Day and the many people and organizations who have dedicated so much energy and time to studying, conserving, and protecting these imperilled seabirds.  Much remains to be done, so please consider how you or your organization can contribute to this globally important effort.”










The Chair’s statement is matched by that from Nicholas Carlile of Australia, who is the WSU’s Vice-Chair:  “World Albatross Day is an opportunity to celebrate all that is amazing, humbling and beautiful about this enigmatic group of seabirds.  With so many species close to being lost forever, we must remain vigilant, energetic and forthright in our defence of their survival and ability to flourish in our changing world”











The WSU’s Treasurer, Betty Anne Schreiber (Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History) has also been in contact: “the World Seabird Union fully supports a World Albatross Day to help draw attention to the conservation of albatrosses.  Because most breed on remote islands, many people never get to see an albatross and are unaware that we are losing these charismatic ocean wanderers owing to human-caused pressures”.













Support from the World Seabird Union follows on from similar commitments received from a number of other environmental NGOs, including the American Bird Conservancy, Australasian Seabird Group, BirdLife South Africa, Humane Society International Australia, Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, the Pacific Seabird Group and Projeto Albatroz.  ACAP will liaise with all these and other NGOs as well as with Party governmental agencies and departments over planning and holding activities as the first World Albatross Day approaches.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 20 November 2019

Surveying White-chinned Petrels: which census method is best?

Ben Dilley (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa) and colleagues have published in the journal Antarctic Science on methods of surveying burrow-breeding petrels, including ACAP-listed and globally Vulnerable White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis, at Marion Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We compared systematic and random survey techniques to estimate breeding population sizes of burrow-nesting petrel species on Marion Island. White-chinned (Procellaria aequinoctialis) and blue (Halobaena caerulea) petrel population sizes were estimated in systematic surveys (which attempt to count every colony) in 2009 and 2012, respectively. In 2015, we counted burrows of white-chinned, blue and great-winged (Pterodroma macroptera) petrels within 52 randomized strip transects (25 m wide, total 144 km). Burrow densities were extrapolated by Geographic Information System-derived habitat attributes (geology, vegetation, slope, elevation, aspect) to generate island-wide burrow estimates. Great-winged petrel burrows were found singly or in small groups at low densities (2 burrows ha−1); white-chinned petrel burrows were in loose clusters at moderate densities (3 burrows ha−1); and blue petrel burrows were in tight clusters at high densities (13 burrows ha−1). The random survey estimated 58% more white-chinned petrels but 42% fewer blue petrels than the systematic surveys. The results suggest that random transects are best suited for species that are widely distributed at low densities, but become increasingly poor for estimating population sizes of species with clustered distributions. Repeated fixed transects provide a robust way to monitor changes in colony density and area, but might fail to detect the formation/disappearance of new colonies.”


White-chinned Petrels, photograph by Ben Phalan


Dilley, B.J., Hedding, D.W., Henry, D.A.W., Rexer-Huber, K., Parker, G.C., Schoombie, S., Osborne, A. & Ryan, P.G. 2019.  Clustered or dispersed: testing the effect of sampling strategy to census burrow-nesting petrels with varied distributions at sub-Antarctic Marion Island.  Antarctic Science doi:10.1017/S0954102019000415.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 November 2019

World Albatross Day on the Bounty Islands: New Zealand joins the banner challenge

As the austral summer commences albatrosses are starting their breeding seasons on islands in the Southern Ocean.  In tandem researchers are venturing south and out into the field on these sub-Antarctic islands to continue their monitoring studies of especially Thallasarche mollymauks.  At the request of ACAP some have been taking home-made banners with them to advertise next year’s inauguration of World Albatross Day on 19 June.

Following displays of banners on French, South African and UK islands close to breeding albatrosses, New Zealand has now joined the ‘banner challenge’.

Graham Parker and Kalinka Rexer-Huber of the New Zealand-based environmental consultancy Parker Conservation visited the sub-Antarctic Bounty Islands last month – with a banner in their luggage.  Along with veteran (now retired) New Zealand albatross researcher, Paul Sagar, they conducted demographic and at-sea tracking research on globally Vulnerable (and Nationally Critical) Salvin's Albatrosses T. salvini on the Bounty Main Group’s Proclamation Island where they displayed their banner.  Their research was under subcontract from New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

From left: Graham Parker, Kalinka Rexer-Huber and Paul Sagar display their World Albatross Day banner behind breeding Salvin’s Albatrosses, Proclamation Island, Bounty Islands, 24 October 2019; photograph by Bill Morris

Graham writes to ACAP Latest News of their banner display: “Note that real-estate is at a premium on the islands, so we couldn't get any farther away from albies than we are in the photo.  They are a fairly tolerant species though, sharing the space with New Zealand Fur Seals [Arctocephalus forsteri] gives them no choice!”

Graham and Kalinka spent the 2009/10 year on the UK’s Gough Island in the South Atlantic working on the island’s seabirds.  Since then they have continued island work together on albatrosses and petrels back home in New Zealand, with Kalinka gaining her PhD on a study of White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis on sub-Antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands in 2017.

Kalinka has written in support of World Albatross Day:  “Albatrosses wander across political borders as readily as they blur sea-sky boundaries, challenging conservation to be truly international and collaborative.  World Albatross Day celebrates albatrosses at a fittingly international scale.”

Not to be outdone Graham has also sent in his ‘WAD Quote’ to ACAP: “Albatrosses are emblems of pure wilderness.  The greatest contiguous wilderness on earth is the Southern Ocean, and nothing rules that mass of mountainous ocean swells and roaring, furious and screaming winds than albatrosses.  Soaring from trough to peak with heart rates the same as when sitting ashore, albatrosses are superbly adapted to our vast southern wilderness.”

Paul Sagar (retired, Marine Ecology Group, NIWA) writes: “Albatrosses nest on some of the most remote islands of the world and travel the High Seas far from land.  Yet they still suffer from the effects of a range of human activities that threaten their existence.  A World Albatross Day is an excellent way to raise awareness of the plight of these iconic seabirds.”

Parker Conservation’s home-made World Albatross Day banner is going to be well-travelled come the end of the 2019/20 summer.  Plans are afoot to take it to Campbell Island this month for monitoring of five albatross species, followed by the Auckland Islands in December/January, and the Snares in March.  ACAP Latest News is looking forward to seeing the photographs!

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 November 2019

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