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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Chile’s ACAP-listed Pink-footed Shearwater gets a Recovery, Conservation and Management Plan

Pink footed Shearwater

Pink-footed Shearwater, photograph by Peter Hodum

At a virtual session last week of Chile’s Council of Ministers for Sustainability led by Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt, the Recovery, Conservation and Management (Recuperación, Conservación y Gestión; RECOGE) Plan for the globally Vulnerable and ACAP-listed Pink-footed Shearwater Ardenna creatopus was approved.  The shearwater is endemic to Chile, breeding only on Santa Clara and Robinson Crusoe Islands in the Juan Fernández Archipelago and on Mocha Island in the Biobío Region.  It is a trans-equatorial migrant reaching Canadian waters outside its breeding season.

“Overexploitation of fishery resources, marine pollution, bycatch, invasive alien species and even light pollution are some of the threats that the Pink-footed Shearwater and other seabirds must face," says Verónica López, project manager at the NGO Oikonos and in charge of leading the plan to conserve the bird.

“The approved RECOGE plan is an administrative and management instrument that allows us to recover, conserve and manage species that have been classified by the Wildlife Classification Regulations of the Ministry of the Environment for their degree of threat.  These plans seek to ensure that conservation processes are undertaken in a participatory manner and that they coordinate the actions of the State, also integrating the vision of the private sector into a common objective” says Charif Tala, Head of the Departamento de Conservación de Especies (Department of Conservation of Species) of the Ministerio del Medio Ambiente (Ministry of the Environment).

The plan for the Pink-footed Shearwater is the first of its kind produced by a non-governmental organization in Chile and consolidates several years of work by Oikonos, along with institutions of the state and the communities of Mocha Island and the Juan Fernández Archipelago. “We have worked for more than six years involving different actors to coordinate specific and concrete measures that allow us to face the threats of this species through an instrument of the State" says Verónica López.  The plan combines efforts to deal with both land and sea threats.  It “has an important marine component, where we have worked to reduce the threats of bycatch in fisheries targeting anchovy and sardine, which are the main food of the shearwater” says Veronica.

“The approval of this plan marks a milestone in efforts to conserve not only the Pink-footed Shearwater, but also the marine and terrestrial environments which it inhabits.  The plan also marks the beginning of a joint work phase with local communities and public and private institutions to seek funding for its implementation.”

Adapted from a Spanish text by Héctor Gutiérrez Guzmán.

Read of earlier progress with the Pink-footed Shearwater RECOGE plan here.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 03 July 2020

A Crustacean Guide for Predator Studies in the Southern Ocean is published by SCAR

 Crustacean Guide

Under the international effort of Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) programmnes, expert and action groups, the Crustacean Guide for Predator Studies in the Southern Ocean gathers information from >100 species from 53 families of the most relevant crustaceans in the diet of sub-Antarctic and Antarctic meso- and top predators [including seabirds], including information on distribution, their relevance in predator diets, sizes, availability of allometric equations and practical procedures to differentiate crustacean species within each family.  It is aimed to support scientists to identify crustaceans in diet studies of predators from the Southern Ocean while promoting interdisciplinary research.

[Text from the SCAR Newsletter, June 2020]

The publication’s abstract follows:

“Crustaceans are an important component in the diet of numerous predators of the Southern Ocean (water masses located south of the Subtropical Front).  As identifying crustaceans from food samples using conventional methods is not easy, a crustacean guide is compiled here to aid scientists working on trophic relationships within the Southern Ocean.  Having the needs of the scientists in mind, we gathered information from >100 species from 53 families of the most relevant crustaceans in the diet of subantarctic and Antarctic meso- and top predators, including information on distribution, their relevance in predator diets, sizes, availability of allometric equations and practical procedures to differentiate crustacean species within each family.  Additional information of bibliography is added if families possess more that the species mentioned in this book.  It is noted that a large number of species still has no allometric equations and the taxonomic status has (remains) to be clarified for some species (one or various species).”


Xavier, J.C., Cherel, Y., Boxshall, G., Brandt, A., Coffer, T., Forman, J., Havermans, C., Jażdżewska, A.M., Kouwenberg, K., Schiaparelli, S., Schnabel, K., Siegel, V., Tarling, G.A., Thatje, S., Ward, P. & Gutt, J.(2020.  Crustacean Guide for Predator Studies in the Southern Ocean.  Cambridge, UK.  Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.  253 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 02 July 2020

Australia raises the threatened status of its endemic Shy Albatross on World Albatross Day

Shy Albatross by Drew Lee

The Shy Albatross Thalassarche cauta is endemic to Australia, breeding on only three small islands around Tasmania.  It currently has a global status of Near Threatened, although a long, ongoing review By BirdLife International is considering whether it should be uplisted to Vulnerable.

In Australia, it was already categorized as nationally Vulnerable, but has now been uplisted to Endangered on the country’s threatened species list by the Federal Government.

The Federal Minister for the Environment the Hon. Sussan Ley MP said in a media release: “although significant progress had been made in mitigating threats, through the protection of breeding sites and reductions in bycatch from commercial longline fishing, significant threats still remained.  Bycatch in other commercial fisheries, disease and competition with other seabirds were all key factors in my decision to list the species as endangered.”  The reassessment was conducted “by the independent expert Threatened Species Scientific Committee, which recommended that I uplist the species because of its limited breeding range and population decline.”

 Shy Albatrosses on Albatross Island, photograph by Matthew Newton

The Minister made the announcement on World Albatross Day last month, writing on her Facebook page:

“On the first international day dedicated to the albatross I have upgraded the threatened species listing for Australia’s Shy Albatross from vulnerable to endangered.  As Australia’s only endemic albatross species, the Shy Albatross breeds on just three islands in the world – all off the coast of Tasmania.  Significant progress has been made in abating threats to the Shy Albatross, including the protection of breeding sites, but bycatch in commercial fisheries and disease were all key factors in my decision.

World Albatross Day is held on 19 June to mark the anniversary of the signing of the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) in Canberra in 2001 - Australia was at the forefront of establishing ACAP to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for threatened albatrosses and petrels.”

The global threat status of the Shy Albatross, along with those of all the ACAP-listed species, were considered at last year's meeting of ACAP's Population and Conservation Status Group (PaCSWG5 Doc 03).

The Shy Albatross is included in both Australia’s National Recovery Plan for Threatened Albatrosses and Giant Petrels (2011) and the Threat Abatement Plan for the Incidental Catch (or Bycatch) of Seabirds during Oceanic Longline Fishing Operations (2018).

Read a popular report of the uplisting.

With thanks to Jonathon Barrington, Australian Antarctic Division.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 01 July 2020

Returning home for the first time: juvenile Manx Shearwaters utilize imprinted magnetic information

Joe Wynn (Oxford Navigation Group, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK) and colleagues have an in-press paper in the journal Current Biology that provides the first evidence for magnetoreception in a pelagic seabird, the Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus.

The paper’s summary follows:

“In migratory animals for whom post-natal care is limited, it is essential that there are inherited mechanisms whereby an individual can navigate—first, to the terminus of their migration, and second, back to a suitable breeding site. In birds, empirical evidence suggests that orientation on first migration is controlled by an inherited navigational vector, a direction and a distance in which to move (the “clock and compass” model).  The mechanism and information that underlie the return to the natal breeding site are, however, almost entirely unknown.  A potential solution to this problem would be for an animal to learn the values for spatially and temporally stable gradient cues that specifically indicate the location of the natal site.  One potential cue for latitude is magnetic inclination.  Here, we use ringing recoveries made over the last 80 years to investigate whether magnetic inclination might be used as a navigational cue to control the latitude of recruitment in a trans-global migrant, the Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus).  We find that small changes in inclination between when a bird fledges and when it returns from first migration correlate with probabilistic changes in latitude at recruitment, in doing so quantitatively fulfilling a priori predictions as to the magnitude and direction of latitudinal shift.  This, we believe, suggests that (1) natal magnetic inclination is learnt prior to fledging and (2) is used to provide latitudinal information when making the first return trip from the wintering grounds.”

Manx shearwater Nathan Fletcher s 

Manx Shearwater, photograph by Nathan Fletcher


Wynn, J., Padget, O., Mouritsen, H., Perrins, C. & Guilford, T. 2020. Natal imprinting to the Earth’s magnetic field in a pelagic seabird.  Current Biology

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 June 2020

Light Mantled Albatross dies in captivity in New Zealand from ingestion of plastic

 Wellington Zoo 6

A Light Mantled Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata (globally Near Threatened and nationally Declining) was found “in the middle of a busy intersection” a couple of hundred metres inland in Petone, a suburb of Lower Hutt on the north shore of Wellington Harbour this month.  It was then taken into captivity by The Nest Te Kōhanga animal hospital at New Zealand’s Wellington Zoo where it was found to be suffering from a thin body condition, weighing only 1.6 kg, and dehydration (click here).

Wellington Zoo 5

The bird “received supportive care, pain relief and fluids as [it was] very weak and underweight.  Yesterday we did a full health check, including X-rays and blood tests. Since his arrival, he’s much stronger, brighter and has gained weight thanks to the amazing work of our Vet team.”  However, the bird did not survive: “We're sad to report that the albatross we were caring for at The Nest Te Kōhanga passed away … our Vet team conducted a post mortem and found that the cause of death was a blockage at the exit of the stomach, caused by two small pieces of plastic.  Due to the obstruction, the bird wasn’t able to absorb any nutrients from his food and that was likely causing his emaciation.”  Information from Wellington Zoo’s Facebook page.

Wellington Zoo 1

It has been suggested the larger item found in the albatross stomach is a rubber ring used for docking the tails of lambs

Ingestion of plastic items, sometimes leading to death, has been reported previously for a number of albatross species, notably for the Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis of the North Pacific.  Watch a video of a Southern Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora that died after swallowing a 500-ml plastic bottle – as previously reported in ACAP Latest News.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 June 2020