Flesh-footed Shearwaters are at risk from longline fisheries in Australian waters

The Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carnepeis along with several shearwaters of the genus Puffinus and Calonectris has been identified by ACAP as a potential candidate for listing within the Agreement (Cooper & Baker 2008, Cooper 2010).

There are two populations of the Flesh-footed Shearwater - one largely confined to the Indian Ocean, and another to the Pacific Ocean.  Both populations breed in the southern hemisphere over the Austral summer and migrate to the northern hemisphere in the non-breeding season.  Most research to date has focused on the Pacific population, which breeds on Australia's Lord Howe Island and in New Zealand.  The Indian Ocean population breeds on French St Paul Island (500 pairs) and on a number of islands along the Western Australian coast.

The species is known to be at risk from longlining in Australian waters.  The mean number of birds killed in Australia's Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery from 1998 to 2002 has been estimated as 1794-4486 birds a year (Baker & Wise 2005).

Concern has been expressed about a decline in breeding numbers at Lord Howe Island, surveyed as 17 462 breeding pairs in 2002 (Priddell et al. 2006).  A rodent eradication programme has been drawn up for this island (Lord Howe Island Board 2006) and is currently under consideration.

A recent at-sea tracking study (Thalmann et al. 2009) shows that longline fishing and foraging Flesh-footed Shearwaters from Lord Howe Island overlap substantially and recommends that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority should consider implementing additional regulations to reduce seabird bycatch.

Research has also been conducted on the Flesh-footed Shearwater at its Western Australian breeding sites (Powell et al. 2007, Powell 2009) and on its population size in New Zealand, estimated as about 10 000 pairs (Baker et al. 2010).

Selected recent publications on Flesh-footed Shearwaters in Australasia:

Baker, G.B. & Wise, B.S. 2005.  The impact of pelagic longline fishing on the Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes in eastern Australia.  Biological Conservation 126: 306-316.

Baker, B., Hedley, G. & Cunningham, R. 2010.  Data collection of demographic, distributional, and trophic information on the Flesh-footed Shearwater to allow estimation of effects of fishing on population viability: 2009- 10 Field Season.  Report prepared for the Ministry of Fisheries PRO2006-01 I.  Kettering, Australia: Latitude 42 Environmental Consultants. 

Cooper, J. 2010.  A brief review of the conservation status of shearwaters Calonectris and PuffinusACAP AC5 Inf 15.

Cooper, J. & Baker, G.B. 2008.  Identifying candidate species for inclusion within the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.  Marine Ornithology 36: 1-8.

Dyer, P. K. 2001.  Burrow occupancy by Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Flesh-footed Shearwaters on Lord Howe Island.  Corella 26: 38-40.

Gaze, P. 2000.  The response of a colony of Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) and Flesh-footed Shearwater (P. carneipes) to the cessation of harvesting and the eradication of Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus).  New Zealand Journal of Zoology 27: 375-379.

Lord Howe Island Board 2009.  Draft Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Plan.  Lord Howe Island: Lord Howe Island Board (click here).

Powell, C.D.L. 2009.  Foraging movements and the migration trajectory of Flesh-footed Shearwaters Puffinus carneipes from the south coast of Western Australia.  Marine Ornithology 37: 115-120.

Powell, C.D.L., Wooller, R.D. & Bradley, J.S. 2007.  Breeding biology of the Flesh-footed Shearwater (Puffinus carneipes) on Woody Island, Western Australia.  Emu Austral Ornithology 107, 275-283.

Priddel, D., Carlile, N., Fullagar, P., Hutton, I. & O'Neill, L. 2006.  Decline in the distribution and abundance of Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) on Lord Howe Island, Australia.  Biological Conservation 128: 412-424.

Taylor, G.A. 2000.  Action Plan for Seabird Conservation in New Zealand.  Part B: Non-threatened Seabirds.  Threatened Species Occasional Publication No. 17: 2326-435.

Thalmann, S.J., Baker, G.B., Hindell, M. & Tuck, G.N. 2009.  Longline fisheries and foraging distribution of Flesh-Footed Shearwaters in eastern Australia.  Journal of Wildlife Management 73: 399-406.

Thalmann, S.J., Lea, M.-A., Hindell, M., Priddel, D. & Carlile, N. 2010.  Provisioning in Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes): plastic foraging behavior and the implications for increased fishery interactions.  Auk 127: 140-150.

With thanks to Barry Baker for information.

ACAP Information Officer, 17 November 2010

The Agreement on the
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