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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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UPDATED Lasers trialled to reduce seabird mortality caused by longline fishing

News is in on trials using lasers and acoustics to deter seabirds from baited hooks in the North Atlantic.

“Norway’s Mustad Autoline, together with the Dutch company SaveWave, has developed the SeaBird Saver which uses brand new technology to create bird free zones near fishing vessels.  This new vessel-based laser device helps to keep the birds at distance from the baited lines, as they feel threatened by the laser and the sound unit.  This reduces the chance of being hooked and means that fishermen get more baited hooks in the sea.”

“The trial took place in coastal Icelandic fishing grounds around the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where bird predation in longline fisheries is high.  The trial consisted of five fishing days and five lines set and hauled in total.  Of the five lines, four were used for testing the SeaBird Saver system.  …success … achieved with Northern Fulmars [Fulmarus glacialis], gives good hope that the system should be successful on albatross species as well.”

The SeaBird Saver

The laser unit is expected to be launched in August 2014 with the sound unit being launched at a later stage (click here).

The SeaBird Saver is a vessel-based device that emits both a visual and acoustic stimulus.  “The birds feel threatened by the physical presence of the laser beam and its natural response is to avoid contact and move away.  The sounds, that are intense and intelligent, mix between predatory calls, unnatural sinus [sic] waves and distress cries, that can either scare the birds away altogether, or make them more sceptical to the laser deterrent” (click here).

The system has been designed to be mounted on a rail or other high vantage point onboard and is protected against extreme cold and frost by an internal heating system.  A hand-held system has also been developed (click here).

The SeaBird Saver is sponsored by the European Eurostars project.

With thanks to Justine Shaw for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 May 2014, updated 6 June 2014

Over 70% of Great Shearwaters in the North Atlantic carry ingested plastic in their stomachs

Jenrifer Provencher (Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada) and colleagues write in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on plastics ingested by Great Shearwaters Puffinus gravis and other seabirds in the North Atlantic.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Marine birds have been found to ingest plastic debris in many of the world’s oceans.  Plastic accumulation data from necropsies findings and regurgitation studies are presented on 13 species of marine birds in the North Atlantic, from Georgia, USA to Nunavut, Canada and east to southwest Greenland and the Norwegian Sea.  Of the species examined, the two surface plungers (great shearwaters Puffinus gravis; northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis) had the highest prevalence of ingested plastic (71% and 51%, respectively).  Great shearwaters also had the most pieces of plastics in their stomachs, with some individuals containing as many of 36 items.  Seven species contained no evidence of plastic debris.  Reporting of baseline data as done here is needed to ensure that data are available for marine birds over time and space scales in which we see changes in historical debris patterns in marine environments (i.e. decades) and among oceanographic regions.”

Great Shearwater at sea, photograph by John Graham

With thanks to Alex Bond and Jenrifer Provencher.

Reference:

Provencher, J.F., Bond, A.L., Hedd, A., Montevecchi, W.A., Bin Muzaffar, S., Courchesne, S.J., Gilchrist, H.G., Jamieson, S.E., Merkel, F.R., Falk, K., Durinck, J. & Mallory, M.L. 2014.  Prevalence of marine debris in marine birds from the North Atlantic.  Marine Pollution Bulletin doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.04.044.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 May 2014

Yelkouan Shearwaters breeding in nest boxes in Italy and Malta will help conservation research

Researchers from the EU Life+ Malta Seabird Project run by BirdLife Malta have recorded Yelkouan Shearwaters Puffinus yelkouan using an artificial nest box placed at one of this threatened seabirds breeding colonies on Malta’s inaccessible sea-cliffs.  LIFE Montecristo 2010, another EU-funded project looking at Yelkouan Shearwaters that breed in Tuscany Archipelago of Italy has also had a similar success trialling nest boxes.  Together, these are the first examples of Yelkouan Shearwaters using nest boxes.

“Normally Yelkouans nest deep in the dark, narrow crevices and caves in the sea-facing cliffs around the islands, which makes their behaviour on their nest very difficult to observe.  If more of these seabirds prove willing to take to nest boxes, it should make it possible for researchers to gain insights into previously unobserved aspects of their breeding ecology.”

Yelkouan Shearwater, photograph by Matthew Borg Cardona

Click here to read more.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 May 2014

UPDATED Mystery chick found on Nakodojima: a sixth breeding locality for the Short-tailed Albatross?

The Vulnerable Short-tailed Albatross Phoebastria albatrus breeds mainly on the Japanese island of Torishima (Izu Islands) and on Minami-kojima in the disputed Senkaku Islands.  A single STAL pair has bred successfully several times on Eastern Island, part of the USA’s Midway Atoll, and a faithful female-female pair on the USA’s Kure Atoll continues to lay infertile eggs and await a passing male.  In addition 70 chicks translocated over four years (2007-2011) from Torishima have nearly all successfully fledged from Mukojima in the Japanese Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands with the aim to establish a new colony.  At least two eggs have been laid at the translocation site but did not hatch (click here)

Now to add to these five localities comes news of a likely new breeding site for the Short-tailed Albatross.

On 7 May this year researchers from the Ogasawara Branch of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government visiting uninhabited Nakodojima five kilometres south of Mukojima discovered what appeared to be a Short-tailed Albatross chick close to fledging.  The bird was colour banded and a feather sample taken for DNA analysis to aid in its positive identification (click here).

No parents were present at the time but a metal-banded STAL in adult plumage was observed in January with a younger bird being seen previously on the island.  On 11 May 2012 a colour-banded four-year old was reported on Nakodojima.  The parents of the newly-discovered chick may come from these three birds.

Nakodojima supports breeding Black-footed Albatrosses P. nigripes (967 pairs in 2006 according to the ACAP Data Portal).  In 2007 10 Black-footed Albatross chicks were successfully transferred from Nakodojima to Mukojima, preliminary to the STAL translocation from Torishima that commenced the next year.  Nine of the 10 Black-foot chicks fledged and some have seen back courting at the translocation site (click here).

The Ogasawara Islands were designated as a World Heritage natural site in 2011, with Nakodojima Island being treated as the most restricted area.

 Feral goats have been removed but Black Rats Rattus rattus remain on Nakodojima.

Translocated Short-tailed Albatrosses on Mukojima, photograph by Tomohiro Deguchi

With thanks to Tomohiro Deguchi, Yamashina Institute for Ornithology for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 May 2014, updated 26 May 2014

Are hybrid albatrosses the result of rape? The case of Laysan and Black-foots in the Northern Pacific

Sievert Rohwer (Department of Biology and Burke Museum of Natural History, University of Washington, Seattle, USA) and colleagues have “pre-published” in the on-line open-access resource PeerJPrePrints on the link between hybridization and rape in Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes and Laysan P. immutabilis Albatrosses.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Conspecific rape often increases male reproductive success.  However, the haste and aggression of forced copulations suggests that males may sometimes rape heterospecific females, thus making rape a likely, but undocumented, source of hybrids between broadly sympatric species.  We present evidence that heterospecific rape may be the source of hybrids between Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses (Phoebastria nigripes, and P. immutabilis, respectively).  Extensive field studies have shown that paired (but not unpaired) males of both of these albatross species use rape as a supplemental reproductive strategy.  Between species differences in size, timing of laying, and aggressiveness suggest that Black-footed Albatrosses should be more successful than Laysan Albatrosses in heteropspecific [sic] rape attempts, and male Black-footed Albatrosses have been observed attempting to force copulations on female Laysan Albatrosses.  Nuclear markers showed that six hybrids we studied were F1s and mitochondrial markers shoed that male Black-footed Albatrosses sired all six hybrids.  The siring asymmetry found in our hybrids may have long persisted because an IM analysis suggests that long-term gene exchange between these species has been from Black-footed Albatrosses into Laysan Albatrosses.  If hybrids are sired in heterospecific rapes, they presumably would be raised and sexually imprinted on Laysan Albatrosses, and two unmated hybrids in a previous study courted only Laysan Albatrosses.

Laysan-Black-footed Albatross hybrid, photograph by Lindsay Young

Click here and here to read two previous postings in ACAP Latest News on hybrid Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses.

Reference:

Rohwer, S., Harris, R.B. & Walsh, H.E. 2014.  Rape and the prevalence of hybrids in broadly sympatric species: a case study using albatrosses.  PeerJPrePrints  27 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 May 2014

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