Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Latest albatross figures cause for concern

New population figures for the critically endangered Antipodean albatross showing a 5% decline per year highlights the importance of reducing all threats to these very special birds, Acting Minister of Conservation, Ayesha Verrall said today.

The latest population modelling, carried out by Dragonfly Data Science, shows the Antipodean albatross is estimated at around 3200 breeding pairs, but under the projected decline, only about 400 pairs may remain in 2050, Dr Verrall said.

Tomorrow is World Albatross Day, with the theme ‘Ensuring Albatross-Friendly Fisheries’ referencing the number of albatross and petrels killed in fisheries, and the efforts being made to combat this.

“A decline of this magnitude is particularly concerning for a long-lived and slow-breeding species like the Antipodean albatross,” Dr Verrall said.

“The current decline in numbers means that over three generations the Antipodean albatross will be on the verge of extinction if we don’t take action.

“Because albatrosses feed on fish near the surface, they are vulnerable to being caught on fishing lines or in nets.

“We have an action plan aiming to reduce domestic bycatch to zero, and as part of the Government’s commitment to protecting our marine environment for future generations, we have just announced funding for a wider roll-out of cameras on inshore fishing vessels.”

The cameras will be phased in to prioritise vessels that pose the greatest threat to protected species, including the Antipodean albatross.

“To see a truly thriving population, we need to see improvements in breeding success alongside domestic and international bycatch reductions. This is an area where more research is required to understand the drivers, which could include factors like climate-changed induced shifts in food availability.”

“DOC is actively involved in albatross research and is a member of international efforts to reduce bycatch. This includes actively supporting the work of the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels and the Convention on Migratory species, being a strong advocate for albatross conservation in international fisheries management, and working directly with a range of countries and fishing fleets where albatross migrate to support local conservation efforts,” Dr Verrall said.

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