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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 fishing company in Namibia adopts the use of bird-scaring lines to save albatrosses and petrels

The following text is quoted from The Namibian of 13 March 2014 (click here).

“Every year in Namibia some 20 000 seabirds are accidentally killed when coming into contact with the trawlers and longliners.

The Albatross Task Force (ATF) based in Walvis Bay funded by Birdlife International and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), implemented in partnership with the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) and Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) [aims] to reduce the incidental mortality of seabirds off the Namibian coast.

The ATF was invited to Lüderitz from 18 to 21 February by Novanam Pescanova to do training on mortality mitigation techniques for fishing vessels.  The mortality mitigation techniques involve the use of paired tori lines or bird scaring lines which are placed on the stern of each trawler.  The tori lines prevent seabirds, particularly albatross from flying into the warp cables and net of trawlers.  The use of tori lines and proper offal and discard management (no discarding during hauling) helps to reduce the seabird mortality by more than 80%.  The tori lines are a very effective solution for saving seabirds as well as for more efficient fishing practices with less bycatch.

A southern African trawler tows twin bird-scaring lines

Painting by Bruce Pearson

Novanam Pescanova is the first fishing company in Namibia to implement these simple but effective mitigation techniques to help reduce the incidental bycatch of seabirds in the fishing industry.  During the training a comprehensive presentation about the threatened species of albatross and how to use tori lines was given to four groups of fishermen from hake trawlers. In total 34 people were trained.  Each trawler requires three tori lines (two in use, one as spare) and each longliner requires two tori lines (one in use, one as spare). Once there was an understanding of the dangers albatross and other seabirds face the ATF visited each fishing vessel to demonstrate how to deploy the tori lines.  It is very important that Namibian fishing companies use these tori lines as Namibia has the deadliest seas in the world with regards to seabird mortality.  The ATF is ready to work with all fishing companies in Walvis Bay and Lüderitz on how to use these mitigation techniques both on trawlers and longliners.

Jose Santome, a captain from one of the trawlers mentioned, “We do not know what a tori line is. We saw them on the boat but we don’t know what they are used for.” “I now understand what tori lines are and how to use them”.”

Click here for a similar news item of 12 March 2014 from The Namib Times.

Namibia drafted a National Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries (NPOA-Seabirds) following Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) guidelines (IPOA-Seabirds) over the period 2003-2007 but it has, as yet, not been formally adopted.

View adopted NPOA-Seabirds on the FAO website here and see ACAP's NPOA-Seabirds list here.

With thanks to Robert Vagg for information

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 April 2014

Where do juvenile Wandering Albatrosses go once they have fledged? a satellite-tracking study

Susanne Åkesson (Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden) and Henri Weimerskirch have looked at the movements of fledging Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans in their first year at sea in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The highly mobile wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) are adapted to navigate the extreme environment of the Southern Ocean and return to isolated islands to breed.  Each year they cover several hundreds of thousands of kilometers during travels across the sea.  Little is known about the dispersal flights and migration of young albatrosses.  We tracked, by satellite telemetry, the departure dispersal of 13 juvenile wandering albatrosses from the Crozet Islands and compared them with tracks of 7 unrelated adults during the interbreeding season.  We used the satellite tracks to identify different behavioural steps of the inherited migration program used by juvenile wandering albatrosses during their first solo-migration.  Our results show that the juvenile wandering albatrosses from Crozet Islands moved to sex-specific foraging zones of the ocean using at departures selectively the wind.  The results suggest that the inherited migration program used by the juvenile wandering albatrosses encode several distinct steps, based on inherited preferred departure routes, differences in migration distance between sexes, and selective use of winds.  During long transportation flights the albatrosses were influenced by winds and both adult and juveniles followed approximate loxodrome (rhumbline) routes coinciding with the foraging zone and the specific latitudes of their destination areas.  During the long segments of transportation flights across open seas the juveniles selected routes at more northerly latitudes than adults.”

A banded juvenile Wandering Albatross at sea one month off Australia after fledging from Marion Island

Photograph courtesy of Marg Larner

With thanks to Marco Barbieri for information.


Åkesson, S. & Weimerskirch, H. 2014.  Evidence for sex-segregated ocean distributions of first-winter Wandering Albatrosses at Crozet Islands.  PLoS ONE 9.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086779.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 April 2014

Krill-eating albatrosses and petrels sniff out their food and help the ocean at the same time: the role of dimethyl sulphide

Matthew Savoca (Graduate Group in Ecology, University of California, Davis, California, USA) and Gabrielle Nevitt write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on a mutualistic interaction between procellariiform seabird species using dimethyl sulfide as a foraging cue and primary producers.

“This study demonstrates that dimethyl sulfide, a chemical cue involved in global climate regulation, mediates a tritrophic mutualistic interaction between marine apex predators and primary producers.  Our results imply that marine top predators play a critical role in maintaining both ocean health and global climate.  Our results highlight the need for more collaboration and discussion between micro- and macroscale biologists working on global issues in the Southern Ocean.”

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Tritrophic mutualistic interactions have been best studied in plant–insect systems.  During these interactions, plants release volatiles in response to herbivore damage, which, in turn, facilitates predation on primary consumers or benefits the primary producer by providing nutrients.  Here we explore a similar interaction in the Southern Ocean food web, where soluble iron limits primary productivity.  Dimethyl sulfide has been studied in the context of global climate regulation and is an established foraging cue for marine top predators.  We present evidence that procellariiform seabird species that use dimethyl sulfide as a foraging cue selectively forage on phytoplankton grazers.  Their contribution of beneficial iron recycled to marine phytoplankton via excretion suggests a chemically mediated link between marine top predators and oceanic primary production.”

Black-browed Albatrosses on Saunders Island, photograph by Anton Wolfaardt

Click here for a popular account of the publication in Science Daily.


Savoca, M.S. & Nevitt, G.A. 2014.  Evidence that dimethyl sulfide facilitates a tritrophic mutualism between marine primary producers and top predators.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111: 4157–4161.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 April 2014

Presentations on ACAP-listed seabirds at the 12th International Seabird Conference, Oxford, UK, March 2014

The 12th International Conference of the [United Kingdom] Seabird Group was held over 21-23 March 2014 in Oxford, United Kingdom.

Abstracts of oral and poster presentations made at the conference on ACAP-listed species by senior author and title are listed below.  Click here to read their full authorship and abstracts, as well as a number of presentations on other procellariiform seabirds, including on potential candidate taxa for ACAP listing, such as Calonectris shearwaters.

Oral presentations

Alice Carravieri.  Foraging ecology drives contamination by persistent organic pollutants and mercury in the Wandering Albatross

Filipe Ceia.  Consistency in the foraging niche of seabirds: possible causes and ecological implications [Wandering Albatross]

Hannah Froy.  Age-related variation in reproductive traits in the Wandering Albatross

Rhiannon Meier.  Combining multiple tracking systems reveals at sea behaviour and a pattern of annual variation in breeding season movements of a Critically Endangered seabird [Balearic Shearwater]

Deborah Pardo.  Comparative albatross demography; species-specific responses to changing climate and fishing pressure [Wandering, Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatrosses]

Samantha Patrick.  Senescence rates are strongly influenced by personalities in Wandering Albatross


A Wandering Albatross and its chick at Marion Island

Photograph by John Cooper

Poster Presentations

Thomas Clay.  Population-level differences in the distribution and habitat characteristicsof non-breeding Grey-headed Albatrosses

Lucas Krüger.  The sexual year-round spatial segregation on an Antarctic population of Southern Giant Petrel

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 April 2014

Megafauna hotspots of seabird (and other taxa) fisheries bycatch: a global assessment

Rebecca Lewison (Department of Biology, San Diego State University, California, USA) and colleagues identify taxa-specific hotspots for fisheries bycatch of seabirds, marine mammals and turtles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).  “This analysis provides an unprecedented global assessment of the distribution and magnitude of air-breathing megafauna bycatch, highlighting its cumulative nature and the urgent need to build on existing mitigation successes.”

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Recent research on ocean health has found large predator abundance to be a key element of ocean condition.  Fisheries can impact large predator abundance directly through targeted capture and indirectly through incidental capture of nontarget species or bycatch.  However, measures of the global nature of bycatch are lacking for air-breathing megafauna.  We fill this knowledge gap and present a synoptic global assessment of the distribution and intensity of bycatch of seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles based on empirical data from the three most commonly used types of fishing gears worldwide.  We identify taxa-specific hotspots of bycatch intensity and find evidence of cumulative impacts across fishing fleets and gears. This global map of bycatch illustrates where data are particularly scarce—in coastal and small-scale fisheries and ocean regions that support developed industrial fisheries and millions of small-scale fishers—and identifies fishing areas where, given the evidence of cumulative hotspots across gear and taxa, traditional species or gear-specific bycatch management and mitigation efforts may be necessary but not sufficient.  Given the global distribution of bycatch and the mitigation success achieved by some fleets, the reduction of air-breathing megafauna bycatch is both an urgent and achievable conservation priority.”

Black-browed Albatrosses gather behind a trawler in the South Atlantic

Photograph by Graham Parker


Lewison, R.L., Crowder, L.B., Wallace, B.P., Moore, J.E., Cox, T., Zydelis, R., McDonald, S., Di Matteo, A., Dunn, D.C., Kot, C.Y., Bjorkland, R., Kelez, S., Soykan, C., Stewart, K.R., Sims, M., Boustany, A., Read, A.J., Halpin, P., Nichols, W.J. & Safina, C. 2014.  Global patterns of marine mammal, seabird, and sea turtle bycatch reveal taxa-specific and cumulative megafauna hotspots.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.  doi/10.1073/pnas.1318960111.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 14 April 2014

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