Falklands : Breeding Black-browed Albatrosses breeding in the Falkland Islands show a healthy increase
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 28.07.2012 (Article Archived on 11.08.2012)
Dr Anton Wolfaardt of ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) for the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories and Joint Nature Conservation Committee indicates, in a new repoert, that the numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses breeding in the Falkland Islands have increased.
Breeding Black-browed Albatrosses breeding in the Falkland Islands show a healthy increase
By J. Brock (FINN)
Dr Anton Wolfaardt of ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) for the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories and Joint Nature Conservation Committee indicates, in a new repoert, that the numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses breeding in the Falkland Islands have increased. The report, based on a synthesis of historical and recent survey results, was submitted to the Environment Committee of the Falkland Islands Government last week.
Over 70% of the global population of Black-browed Albatrosses breeds in the Falkland Islands, so the status of the Falklands’ population has significant bearing on the global conservation status of the species that is presently considered Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Within the Falkland Islands different methods have been used independently to census the Black-browed Albatross population. Ian, and more recently, Georgina Strange have conducted aerial photographic surveys of colonies in the Falkland Islands since 1964, with archipelago-wide surveys in 1986, 2005 and 2010. Members of Falklands Conservation have carried out ground and boat-based surveys of the Falklands’ population in 2000, 2005 and 2010. Up until and including the 2005 census results, these initiatives reported contrasting population trends. The aerial based surveys indicated an increase in the population between the mid 1980s and 2005 and the ground based surveys a decline between 1995 and 2005.
Both aerial and ground based surveys conducted in 2010 reveal an increase in the population between 2005 and 2010 of at least 4% per annum. The most recent population estimates also represent an increase from the population estimates obtained during the first ground-based archipelago-wide census in 2000. The positive trends from both of these surveys is further supported by favourable survival and breeding data from an ongoing study carried out by scientists at New Island (one of the twelve breeding sites in the Falkland Islands), and an additional aerial photographic survey carried out later in the 2010 breeding season. Dr Wolfaardt said: “The exact reasons for the increase are not entirely clear, but efforts to reduce incidental seabird mortality associated with fisheries activities by employing mitigation measures such as bird scaring lines, and beneficial feeding conditions, are likely to have contributed.”
On the basis of these reported results, and the global importance of the Falklands’ population, the report recommends that consideration should be given to changing the formal ‘Endangered’ status of the species to a lower category of threat. Dr James Fenton of Falklands Conservation said: “All recent surveys indicate the Falkland Islands population of Black-browed Albatrosses is increasing, which indicates the species is no longer endangered. As we host the largest population in the world this is especially good news, although there is still concern about the continuing decline of the smaller South Georgia population. The significant reduction in the number of birds caught as a bycatch of the fishing industry in recent years illustrates how wildlife conservation benefits from everyone working together.”
Mr Nick Rendell, Environment Officer for the Falkland Islands Government, reported that: “It is great to confirm the healthy status of the Black-browed Albatross population in the Falkland Islands”, and highlighted the importance of continuing efforts to further reduce the accidental capture of seabirds in fisheries, both to buffer local populations against possible future changes, and to improve the conservation status of other populations and species. Given the wide-ranging nature of seabirds and the poor conservation status of many other species and populations world-wide, it is important that these efforts are progressed locally, regionally, and indeed internationally.
The report has been submitted to BirdLife International to enable a formal assessment of the global population to be undertaken. Dr Cleo Small, senior policy officer for BirdLife International’s Global Seabird Programme, commented: “When 17 of the world’s 22 species of albatross are listed as threatened with extinction, it is hugely encouraging that Black-browed Albatrosses are now known to be increasing. It gives us hope for turning around the fortunes of other albatross species which are currently declining. Bycatch in fisheries is the main threat to most species, and efforts are underway in many longline and trawl fisheries worldwide to reduce the numbers killed. If we can keep this up, I hope that more species will follow the Black-browed Albatross in the future.”
Notes and URLs for relevant documents
The Black-browed Albatross is one of the 30 species listed under the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), a multilateral agreement that seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations. ACAP came into force in February 2004 and currently has 13 member countries, including the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories.
The Falklands’ population is currently estimated to comprise approximately 500,000 breeding pairs that nest at 12 separate sites(in descending order of population size): Steeple Jason Island, Beauchêne Island, Grand Jason Island, North Island, Saunders Island, West Point Island, Bird Island, New Island, Keppel Island, South Jason Island, Elephant Jason Island, and Grave Cove.
The main report can be found on the website of the Environmental Planning Department, Falkland Islands Government: www.epd.gov.fk
Aerial photographic survey reports: http://www.falklandswildlife.com/pages/albatrosssurveys.htm
Falklands Conservation information and reports: www.falklandsconservation.com