ACAP Latest News

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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Incidental mortality of seabirds in trawl fisheries: a global review

Phillips Trawl review Biological Conservation
Availability of data on estimated total seabird bycatch in different trawl fisheries in FAO Major Fishing Areas (from the publication)

Richard Phillips (British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK) and colleagues have reviewed open access in the journal Biological Conservation seabird mortality caused by trawl fisheries around the world.  “Across the Southern Ocean, species estimated to be caught in their thousands were, in order and as a percentage of the total, Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris (23,176 birds, 68 %), Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus (2812 birds, 8 %), Northern Giant Petrel Macronectes halli (1941 birds, 5 %) …”.

The paper’s abstract follows

‘Seabirds are amongst the most threatened taxa in the world, often due to incidental mortality (bycatch) in fisheries. Hundreds of thousands are thought to be killed worldwide in gillnets and longlines each year, but global mortality in trawl fisheries is unknown. Based on our comprehensive review, bycatch totals from cable strikes and net captures were available for only 25 fisheries. Bycatch rates were highly variable, precluding substitution from monitored to unmonitored fisheries to estimate bycatch totals, and total fishing effort was often unknown, which is also a prerequisite for scaling bycatch rates to estimate total birds killed. Ten, seven and one trawl fishery were known to catch of the order of 100s, 1000s and 10,000s of birds, respectively, and total bycatch from all monitored fisheries sums to ∼44,000 birds per year. However, given the scale of cryptic mortality and the many unmonitored or poorly monitored fisheries, the actual global mortality in trawl fisheries will be much higher. The most bycaught species were albatrosses and large petrels (many of which are threatened) in the Southern Hemisphere, and gannets in the Northern Hemisphere. The few long-term studies indicated that mitigation measures (particularly strategic offal management and bird-scaring lines) were effective at reducing bycatch rates. Much improved regulations, and close monitoring of compliance and bycatch rates are essential for ensuring trawl fisheries do not continue to have major impacts on vulnerable seabird populations.”

Phillips Trawl review Biological Conservation
Black-browed Albatrosses gather
en masse behind a trawler in the South Atlantic, photograph by Graham Parker

Read the British Antarctic Survey's press release on the scientific paper.

With thanks to Richard Phillips.


Phillips, R.A., Fox, E., Crawford, R., Prince, S. & Yates, O. 2024Incidental mortality of seabirds in trawl fisheries: a global review.  Biological Conservation 296.

25 July 2024

Papers for the Fourteenth Meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee have been published online

Lima Peru Plaza Mayor in Historic Center of Lima Peru Downtown by rjankovskyPlaza Mayor in the Historic Centre of Lima, Peru; photo by rjankovsky (canva)

Papers for the Fourteenth Meeting of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels’ Advisory Committee (AC14) have now been published on the ACAP website. 

Peru is hosting this year’s meeting, which will be held in the nation’s capital, Lima, at the Hotel José Antonio Deluxe, 12 – 16 August 2024.

Documents and Information Papers, including a draft agenda (AC14 Doc 01) are now available to download at the ACAP website.  Note, however, that some documents are password-protected so only their abstracts are publicly available.  For convenience a meeting document (AC11Doc 04) lists all the papers to be tabled by title and author(s). 

The meeting will be chaired by Dr Michael Double from Australia, with Brazil’s Tatiana Neves assisting as Vice-chair.

AC14 will follow the Twelfth Meeting of the Seabird Bycatch Working Group (SBWG), and Eighth Meeting of the Population and Conservation Status Working Group (PaCSWG). Documents for these meetings are also now available under Upcoming Meetings and Events on the homepage of the ACAP website.

24 July 2024

An Audubon’s Shearwater lays an egg on Puerto Rico’s Desecheo Island following the eradication of invasive mammals

 Desecheo Island Audubons Shearwater
Desecheo Island with inset of a sound broadcast system.  The red arrow points out a visiting Audubon’s Shearwater

Luis Ramos-Vázquez (USFWS Caribbean Islands NWR Complex, Boquerón, Puerto Rico, USA) and colleagues have published open access in the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology on attracting Audubon’s Shearwaters Puffinus lherminieri back to Desecheo Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Desecheo Island, located in Puerto Rico, is a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  In the past, Desecheo Island was a crucial seabird habitat.  However, introducing invasive mammals led to the disappearance of many seabird species.  In 2010, a collaboration between the USFWS and local partners began to implement a seabird restoration project in Desecheo.  After successfully eradicating invasive mammals, the island was declared rat-free in 2017.  After this, a seabird social attraction project started using different methods such as decoys, mirrors, and sound systems.  An ongoing biosecurity program complements these efforts.  During a visit to the island in 2023, we found an egg at the base of a social attraction speaker.   A few days later, the site was revisited to deploy camera traps and collect feathers. The Smithsonian Feather Identification Laboratory confirmed the feathers to be from an Audubon’s Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri).  This is the first-ever record of an Audubon’s Shearwater nest on Desecheo Island.  This discovery is a significant milestone in the project to restore seabird populations on the island. It also proves the success of the social attraction methods and showcases the benefits of an island free of invasive mammals.  This is a positive step towards the conservation goal of restoring Desecheo Island into a safe haven for seabirds in the Caribbean.”

 desecheo island audubon shearwater
The social attraction sound system at night on Desecheo Island

Isla Desecheo: un nuevo hogar para Puffinus lherminieri • La isla Desecheo, ubicada en Puerto Rico, es un Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre (National Wildlife Refuge, NWR) gestionado por el Servicio de Pesca y Vida Silvestre de los Estados Unidos (United States Fish and Wildlife Service, USFWS). En el pasado, esta isla fue un hábitat crucial para las aves marinas. Sin embargo, la introducción de mamíferos invasores provocó la desaparición de muchas especies de aves marinas. En 2010, una colaboración entre el USFWS y socios locales comenzó la implementación de un proyecto de restauración de las poblaciones de aves marinas en Desecheo. En 2017, la isla fue declarada libre de ratas después de erradicar con éxito todos los mamíferos invasores. A partir de ese momento, se inició un proyecto de atracción social de aves marinas utilizando diferentes métodos como señuelos, espejos y sistemas de sonido, complementados con un programa de bioseguridad. Durante una visita a la isla en el 2023, encontramos un huevo en la base de un altavoz que forma parte del sistema de atracción social. Unos días después, se visitó nuevamente el sitio para instalar cámaras trampa y recolectar plumas. El Laboratorio de Identificación de Plumas del Smithsonian confirmó que las plumas pertenecían a un individuo de Puffinus lherminieri. Este es el primer registro de un nido de esta especie en la isla Desecheo y constituye un hito importante en el proyecto para recuperar las poblaciones de aves marinas en la isla. También demuestra el éxito de los métodos de atracción social y muestra los beneficios de una isla libre de mamíferos invasores. Este es un paso positivo hacia el objetivo de conservación de restaurar la isla Desecheo para que vuelva a convertirse en un refugio seguro para las aves marinas en el Caribe.”

The abstract is also provided in French.

Desecheo Island sound systemegg
An Audubon’s Shearwater egg laid directly below the sound system
Photographs from Island Conservation

Read an earlier ACAP Latest News post on shearwater visits to Desecheo and a popular account of the publication here.


Ramos-Vázquez, L.A., Arocho-Hernández, N., Figuerola-Hernández, C., Herrera-Giraldo, J.L., Ventosa-Febles, E.A., Román, A.M. & Padrón, S. 2024.  Desecheo Island: a new home for Audubon's Shearwaters (Puffinus lherminieri).  Journal of Caribbean Ornithology 37:35-39.

John Cooper, Emeritus Information Officer, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, 23 July 2024

Pacific Seabird Group releases statement on High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza

Pacific Seabird Group

The Pacific Seabird Group (PSG), an organisation committed to the study and conservation of seabirds, has released a statement concerning high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI). 

The statement stems from a symposium held during PSG's 2024 annual meeting, where the latest findings and developments related to the emergence and spread of HPAI in seabirds were discussed by experts. The symposium focused on the epidemiology, ecology, and evolution of avian influenza in wild bird populations, assessments of mortality and population-level impacts, and strategies for surveillance, prevention, and control. 

The PSG statement follws below in full: 

 "High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is a devastating wildlife disease that impacts seabird populations worldwide and warrants our attention and response 

The Pacific Seabird Group is releasing this statement in response to the devastating and ongoing worldwide circulation of clade H5N1 viruses and derived reassortants. The resulting Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has caused mass mortalities in wild birds, including seabirds, on all continents except for Oceania. Historically, HPAI has been considered a poultry disease. Today it is also a wildlife conservation issue. This fact has been recognized by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), among others. 

This statement is a call to action for the seabird community, to highlight the following important activities: 

  • Addressing significant gaps in our understanding of the epidemiology of this disease. 
  • Establishing a global reporting system on mass mortality events in seabirds associated with HPAI. 
  • Conducting population monitoring to evaluate the impact of the disease including quantifying mortality rates and assessing population-level impacts. 
  • Addressing significant gaps in wild bird HPAI surveillance programs (e.g., sampling of sick and dead seabirds). 
  • Developing emergency response plans before mass mortality events occur. These plans should consider human safety, HPAI disease surveillance and mortality monitoring, and management and mitigation measures response.
  • Improving communication, coordination, and information sharing within the international marine wildlife community, including those focused on both marine birds and marine mammals. This could include using digital capabilities in collecting, processing, and sharing data, information, and knowledge across multisectoral domains. These data can be diverse and include information on best surveillance and response practices to information on virus detection and distribution across space and time.  
  • Considering the potential impacts of diseases like HPAI when developing or revising conservation and management documents and models. 
  • Recognizing the links between the drivers of seabird population declines (e.g., habitat loss and fragmentation/degradation, climate change, etc.) and disease emergence. 
  • Adopting a One Health collaboration/approach for addressing this disease. This approach works at the local, regional, national, and global levels with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes while recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. Information on One Health: CDC; IPAC Canada; WHO; G7.  

Many of these activities will require financial resources and investments of personnel time. Reallocation of resources from other conservation programs will come at significant costs to the success of those programs. 

This statement is motivated by the direct experiences of international seabird managers, biologists, veterinarians, and researchers who participated in a symposium on HPAI in seabirds at the 51st meeting of the Pacific Seabird Group in Seattle, Washington, USA on February 23, 2024. Given our first-hand experience dealing with the ramifications of HPAI in seabirds, we feel compelled to make a statement to bring vital awareness to the issue. 

For more information, please see the most recent FAO/CMS Scientific Task Force report on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds:"

While PSG’s focus encompasses all seabird species, including albatrosses and petrels, ACAP has been receiving advice from its own HPAI group dedicated to similar efforts with a focus specifically on albatrosses and petrels worldwide. Despite the different scopes, PSG's recommendations align closely with those of ACAP. 

ACAP’s HPAI Group, consisting of thirteen experts on epidemiology, disease risk assessment, and management have authored ACAP’s “Guidelines for working with albatrosses and petrels during the on-going high pathogenicity H5N1 avian influenza panzootic” which are available at the ACAP website, here. A number of additional resources can be found on the Avian Flu web page of the ACAP website including a recording of the Q&A session and wet lab training workshop for working with albatrosses and petrels during the on-going high pathogenicity H5N1 avian influenza outbreak, that took place at the International Albatross and Petrel Conference held in May 2024.

22 July 2024

Themed Section on impact of heatwaves on seabirds published in Marine Ecology Progress Series (MEPS).

mepsTS HEAT 20211221 500x614 Image Mayumi ArimitsuImage: Mayumi Arimitsu

A Theme Section, “How do marine heatwaves impact seabirds?” has been published in Volume 737 of the journal, Marine Ecology Progress Series (MEPS). 

The introduction to the Theme Section follows, 

“Extreme heatwaves have had dramatic impacts on marine ecosystems worldwide, and they are increasing in frequency and magnitude. The effect of these periodic heating events on seabirds has been manifested in a variety of biological and behavioural responses, including die-offs, reproductive failures, reduced survival, shifts in phenology of breeding or migration, and shifts in distribution at sea. However, the actual mechanisms by which heating events exert their effects on seabirds are not well understood. For example, how does ocean heating reduce prey availability or quality to cause starvation or breeding failure? How are impacts modulated by the duration and spatial extent of heatwaves? How, and to what degree, can seabirds buffer against heatwave impacts? What are the physiological effects of heating on seabirds and their prey? This Theme Section was inspired by the “heatwave impacts” symposium at the 3rd World Seabird Conference held in October 2021.”

The full list of papers published in the Theme Section, many of which are open access,  can be found here,
Organisers: John F. Piatt, William J. Sydeman, Peter Dann, Bradley C. Congdon 
Editors: John F. Piatt, Robert M. Suryan, William J. Sydeman, Mayumi L. Arimitsu, Sarah Ann Thompson, Rory P. Wilson, Kyle H. Elliott

19 July 2024

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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