Black-browed Albatross shows population increase

Black-browed Albatross (Don R Faulkner; flickr.com)
By Martin Fowlie, Tue, 24/07/2012 - 08:05

A new report indicates a healthy increase in the numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses breeding in the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas). The report, submitted to the Environment Committee of the Falkland Islands Government, indicated that recent and historical survey results show an increase in this threatened species.

Black-browed Albatross is currently classified as Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of  the IUCN Red List. Over two-thirds of the global population breed in the Falkland Islands, so the status of the Falklands population has significant bearing on the global conservation status of the species. Within the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas) 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.

However, the aerial and ground based surveys conducted in 2010 both reveal an increase in the population between 2005 and 2010 of at least 4% per annum. 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 (Las Malvinas)), and an additional aerial photographic survey carried out later in the 2010 breeding season.

The breeding population estimate obtained from the 2010 ground-based survey was larger than the estimate for 2000. Furthermore, the 2010 ground-based estimates for the two largest colonies in the Falklands (at Steeple Jason and Beauchêne islands) were similar to those derived from surveys carried out in the 1980s.

Dr Cleo Small from RSPB/BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme said: “When 17 out of the world’s 22 species of albatross are listed as threatened with extinction, it is hugely encouraging that Black-browed Albatross colonies in the Falkland Islands are now known to be increasing. There is still some way to go - with the UK Overseas Territories other major population on South Georgia continuing to decline. But this result gives us great hope for turning around the fortunes of other albatrosses. Bycatch in fisheries is their main threat, and efforts are underway in many longline and trawl fleets worldwide to reduce the numbers killed. If we can keep this up, there is real hope that the black-browed albatross will set a trend for the future.”

Dr Anton Wolfaardt, ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels) officer for the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories and author of the report said: “The exact reasons for the increase are not entirely clear, but efforts to reduce seabird bycatch, and beneficial feeding conditions, are likely to have contributed.”

On the basis of the reported results, and the fact that the Falklands population comprises approximately 70% of the global total, the report recommends that consideration should be given to downlisting the species from EndangeredThe report has been submitted to BirdLife International for use in the Red List assessment process. The report also recommends that efforts to further improve seabird bycatch mitigation should continue, both to buffer the local population against possible future changes, and to improve the conservation status of other populations and species.


Europe and Central Asia Marine

Comments

Could you please add a link to the report?

UK, one of the countries with more birders and nature lovers, has its overseas territories in a very bad situation. St Helena island is a good (or bad) example of this: not only almost all of the endemics birds have dissapeared, and a lot of native plants. Now there are plans to make an airport on an area home of a endemic and endangered plover, and new developments, golff courses... This is happening right now, instead of trying to fix all the environmental problems this island has, the politicians keep destroying it. It´s very sad, and nobody in England seems to care about this.

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