Conserving albatrosses and petrels

 

Albatrosses and petrels are among the most threatened groups of birds in the world. The last decade has seen a strong international resolve to improve their conservation status, including the development and adoption of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), which came into force in February 2004. This multilateral agreement aims to reduce the threat of extinction for 26 species of albatrosses and larger petrels, and is currently ratified by 11 countries.Black-browed albatross and chick © Sarah Crofts/Falklands Conservation

 

The UK, including and on behalf of its South Atlantic Overseas Territories (SAOTs) - Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha, ratified ACAP in 2004, soon after it came into force, and has been integrally involved in the Agreement since its inception. JNCC’s Mark Tasker served as the first Chair of the Advisory Committee. The Agreement, together with its Action Plan, describes a number of conservation measures that contracting Parties need to implement to improve the conservation status of these seabirds.

 

The UK SAOTs are particularly important for their conservation of albatrosses and petrels. They are breeding range states to a dozen of the 26 species covered by the Agreement. For most of these, the SAOTs host significant proportions of the global breeding population, three of which are unique as breeders to the Tristan da Cunha group of islands.

 

Albatrosses and petrels face a range of threats both on land and at sea. Chief among these is fisheries-related mortality, for example through bycatch. In most cases, this is exacerbated by many other threats, in particular the impact of introduced predators at breeding sites.

 

Several  initiatives have been undertaken to address these threats, involving a range of Government departments both in the UK and the SAOTs, non-government organisations, research institutions, industry and private landowners. Mitigation measures to reduce seabird bycatch have been developed, tested and implemented, leading to substantial reductions in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. However, despite these successes, many populations continue to decline. The vast foraging movements of these seabirds take them onto the high seas and the national waters of other nations, making them truly international animals, whose conservation is dependent on concerted international action. This is precisely what ACAP seeks to achieve.

 

The importance that JNCC, the UK Government and the SAOTs attach to this agreement is emphasised by the funding of a three-year project to co-ordinate and drive forward work by the UK to implement ACAP and conserve albatrosses and petrels. JNCC’s Anton Wolfaardt has been in post in Stanley since early 2008 to carry out this work.

 

 

Anton Wolfaardt

ACAP coordinator, UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories

Tel: +500 22085

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