To raise awareness that thousands of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters dying every year as a result of fisheries operations and other human-induced threats, the Agreement on the conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) is inaugurating a World Albatross Day (WAD), to be held annually from 2020 on 19 June, the date the Agreement was signed in 2001.
The theme for WAD2020 is “Eradicating Island Pests”, chosen to highlight the threats albatrosses and petrels can also face on their breeding islands from introduced rodents, cats and pigs.
Albatrosses and petrels are arguably the world’s most pelagic seabirds, breeding on remote oceanic islands, and ranging across seas far away from continental shores. Most species migrate over vast distances, especially when not breeding.
Following discussion, and consideration of the main threats facing albatrosses identified in a recent review in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, the theme of eradicating introduced pests at breeding sites of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters has been chosen to highlight a continuing, but addressable, problem facing ACAP-listed species, many of which are threatened with extinction unless actions are taken.
In 2020 attempts are being made to eradicate introduced House Mice on the UK’s Gough Island in the South Atlantic and on the USA’s Midway Atoll in the North Pacific. At both locations mice have been attacking and killing albatrosses.
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Planning and field work is continuing in 2020 towards eradicating mice on South Africa’s Marion Island and on New Zealand’s Auckland Island (along with its feral cats and pigs). These, and other pest eradication projects at breeding sites of ACAP-listed species, will be highlighted in the build up to World Albatross Day on 19 June 2020.
South Africa joins global celebrations of World Albatross Day
South Africa has joined the world in celebrating World Albatross Day. The day honours these magnificent birds and highlights the ongoing conservation crisis they face.
South Africa, as one of the five founding members, is a long-standing Party to the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). The agreement was brought into existence on 1 February 2004.
Populations of albatrosses and giant petrels on South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands (Marion and Prince Edward) in the southern Indian Ocean, have been monitored for several decades (over 40 years for the globally Vulnerable Wandering Albatross). However, monitoring on Marion Island has been halted in the current year due to difficulties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Africa is now busy revising its National Plan of Action – Seabirds (NPOA-S) that will further reduce at-sea mortality of seabirds on pelagic and demersal long-line vessels and demersal trawlers in South African waters.
The country has commenced with plans towards the eradication of Marion Island’s introduced house mice that have taken to attacking and killing the island’s albatross chicks of four species. If carried out successfully, Marion will be by far the largest island from which mice have been eradicated anywhere in the world.
Several species, notably albatrosses, can undertake movements that encircle the Southern Ocean, either as non-breeding adults or as juveniles, whereas others may range from Antarctic to Subtropical waters, including within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of South Africa.
During such movements they may enter the territorial and EEZ waters of other nations, making them truly international species, and thus their conservation a matter of international concern and shared responsibility.