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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Discarded fishing gear continues to be a threat for Wandering Albatrosses in the South Atlantic

Around 850 pairs of ACAP-listed and Vulnerable Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans currently breed annually at Bird Island, South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*.  Andy Wood of the British Antarctic Survey reports to ACAP Latest News of the recent harrowing experience of Jess Walkup, who is continuing the long-term monitoring of Wanderers on the island:

“During the monthly census in August, one wandering albatross chick was observed several metres from its nest, looking weak and uncharacteristically ruffled.  Closer inspection revealed that it had more than two metres of monofilament fishing line emerging from its beak.

The line was wrapped tightly around the chick’s body and wings and had almost severed one leg.  It must have ingested the hook and line embedded in discarded bait obtained by its parent while scavenging behind a fishing vessel.  Indeed, a study published in 2010 suggested that 1300-2050 items of fishing gear are inadvertently consumed each year by wandering albatrosses at South Georgia.  The team cut the bird free from the line, but had to leave the hook embedded within the bird’s digestive system.  It was found dead a few days later.”

 

The hooked chick is examined, photograph by Cian Luck

The local South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* fishery is well managed and there is a ban on discarding hooks enforced by on-board observers.  During the breeding season, Wandering Albatrosses range thousands of kilometres from the colony, overlapping with fisheries managed by many different regulatory regimes.  The discarded fishing gear reported here is most likely to have come from a fishery that is much farther afield, where discarding of gear is not as well regulated.  This emphasises the international nature of the problems that fisheries pose for this and other threatened ACAP species.

Selected Literature:

Phillips, R.A., Ridley, C., Reid, K., Pugh, P.J.A., Tuck, G.N. & Harrison, N. 2010.  Ingestion of fishing gear and entanglements of seabirds: monitoring and implications for management.  Biological Conservation 143: 501–512.

Andy Wood, British Antarctic Survey, Madingley Road, Cambridge, UK, 26 August 2014

*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.

South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands get a new management plan

South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs has posted on-line a new management plan for its Prince Edward Islands, a Special Nature Reserve and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in the southern Indian Ocean.  The management plan has had a long history with the final version being dated 2010, but only being officially approved and made publicly available this month (click here).  It replaces an earlier management plan for the island group, adopted in 1996.  The new plan has been produced under section 39(2) of South Africa’s National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act of 2003 and covers biodiversity and historical conservation issues as well as biosecurity and waste management.

The weather station on Marion Island, photograph by Tara van Niekerk

Marion and Prince Edward that make up the island group together support nine species of ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels, notably including significant percentages of the global populations of Wandering Diomedea exulans and Indian Yellow-nosed Thalassarche carteri Albatrosses.

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross on Prince Edward Island, photograph by Peter Ryan

The specific objectives of the Prince Edward Islands Special Nature Reserve as set out in the new management plan are to:

Ensure the protection, survival and biological diversity of the islands’ indigenous plant and animal species;

Maintain the integrity and healthy functioning of the total ecosystem;

Maintain diversity at every level, including the islands’ biological, species and genetic diversity as well as the ecological processes; and

Protect geological and geomorphologic features, natural landscapes and wilderness attributes.

The new management plan was prepared by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University, with major contributions by Steven Chown, Sarah Davies, Leonie Joubert and Marienne de Villiers.

The Prince Edward Islands are surrounded by a large Marine Protected Area, declared in 2013.

 An illustrated Conservation Handbook that summarizes the new manplan was produced for visitors, including team members, in 2011.

With thanks to Floyd Chauke for information. 

Reference:

DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology 2010 [2014].  Prince Edward Islands Management Plan Version 0.2.  [Department of Environmental Affairs].  202 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 August 2014

Oldies do it better? Parental age, experience and historical reproductive success in Wandering Albatrosses on Marion Island

Genevieve Jones and colleagues (DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa) write in the journal Polar Biology on the effects of age and experience on breeding ability in Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans on South Africa’s Marion Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Growth and survival of altricial young are influenced by their parents’ abilities to invest in a breeding attempt.  As a result, chick growth and survival in one breeding season may be indicative of their parents’ long-term reproductive potential.  To determine whether variation in long-term reproductive success is driven by differential breeding investment, parental care and chick growth in wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) were correlated with parental historical reproductive success.  Effects of age and breeding experience (determined from past breeding attempts) and pre-laying body condition (mass–size indices) on chick growth and survival also were tested.  Longer brooding of chicks increased their survival, but length of chick brooding did not differ between historically unproductive and successful breeders.  Past reproductive success also was not correlated with chick growth rates or fledging mass or size.  Chick brooding period, chick growth rates, final mass and size were independent of parental body condition.  Older and more experienced parents brooded chicks for longer and their chicks grew faster, supporting previous findings that breeding competence is a learnt skill.  Chick care and growth characteristics differed more between than within pairs, suggesting that differences in these characteristics are driven by variation among pairs."

Genevieve Jones with Wandering Albatrosses on Marion Island

Clíck here to read of Genevieve's PhD on Marion's Wanderers.

Reference:

Jones, M.G.W., Dilley, B.J., Hagens, Q.A., Louw, H., Mertz, E.M., Visser, P. & Ryan, P.G. 2014.  The effect of parental age, experience and historical reproductive success on wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) chick growth and survival.  Polar Biology.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 August 2014

                                                                   

Storm petrels are affected by House Mice on an albatross island in the South Atlantic

Mark Bolton (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy, UK) and colleagues have published in the journal Polar Biology on the effects of House Mice Mus musculus on storm petrels on Steeple Jason, an island in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)* that supports a very large population of ACAP-listed Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris as well as Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus.

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Whilst there is good evidence for negative impacts of introduced rat species on island ecosystems, the effects of house mice (Mus musculus) are generally less well documented. In some situations, introduced house mice can exert severe impacts, particularly where this is the only introduced mammal. Here, we examine the distribution, relative abundance and breeding success of small burrowing seabirds on Steeple Jason Island, Falklands, in relation to habitat types and the distribution of house mice which is the sole introduced mammal species, and we make comparisons with seabird distribution and densities on the neighbouring island of Grand Jason where mice are absent. Grey-backed storm-petrel (Garrodia nereis) and Wilson’s storm-petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), which due to their extremely small size are likely to be the most vulnerable to mouse predation, were considerably more abundant on mouse-free Grand Jason than on Steeple Jason. Grey-backed storm-petrel, which are typically associated with tussac grass, avoided this habitat on Steeple Jason where it is associated with high levels of house mouse activity (assessed from the proportion of wax baits gnawed overnight), whereas on mouse-free Grand Jason, there was no such avoidance. Wilson’s storm-petrel nesting on Steeple Jason suffered high rates of egg and chick loss. Whilst we found evidence for detrimental impacts of house mice on the two small storm-petrel species, there was no relationship between relative mouse activity levels and the distribution or abundance.”

Black-browed Albatrosses on Steeple Jason, photograph by Ian Strange

Click here for a related paper on Steeple Jason's mice.

Reference:

Bolton, M., Stanbury, A., Baylis, A.A.M. & Cuthbert, R.[J.] 2014.  Impact of introduced house mice (Mus musculus) on burrowing seabirds on Steeple Jason and Grand Jason Islands, Falklands, South Atlantic. Polar Biology DOI 10.1007/s00300-014-1554-2.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 August 2014

*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.

New Zealand’s Glenfern Sanctuary protects ACAP-listed Black Petrels in the face of winter storms

Glenfern Sanctuary is a predator-controlled area on Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park of New Zealand.

A 2.1-km Xcluder® fence built across the Kotuku Peninsula on inhabited Great Barrier in 2009 by the Glenfern Sanctuary Charitable Trust helps protect Vulnerable and ACAP-listed Black Petrels Procellaria parkinsoni and other burrowing seabirds within the 250-ha sanctuary against feral domestic cats Felis catus, feral pigs Sus scrofa domesticus, Pacific Rats or Kiore Rattus exulans and Norway or Brown Rats R. norvegicus.  Monitoring of over 1000 bait stations and tracking tunnels helps prevent reinvasions of pests becoming established.

Black Petrels, photograph by Biz Bell

In June this year a major storm caused extensive damage to the natural environment on Great Barrier with landslips, fallen trees and foot bridges and parts of the walkways in the sanctuary washed away – as described in the sanctuary’s on-line newsletter (click here).

The winter 2014 newsletter also reports on the last summer’s breeding:

“Seasonal monitoring of blacks and Cooks [Pterodroma cookii] petrels is proving very promising with three areas with both Blacks and Cooks within the Sanctuary and confirmation of fluttering shearwaters [Puffinus gavia] located near the cliffs at the western boundary of the Peninsula. In total, 22 Cooks and 16 black petrel burrows were identified this season, including 17 new burrow locations.  A total of nine Cooks and six black petrels were considered to have fledged successfully based on our monitoring – and thankfully all before the big storm hit.”

Black Petrel Action Group was established in 2011.

Watch a short video on Black Petrel conservation here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 August 2014

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