Six albatross species move further towards brink of extinction

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Six albatross species move further towards brink of extinction


New research has revealed that longline fishing is the prime factor responsible for greatly increasing the risk of extinction among at least five species of albatross.


BirdLife International’s new research means that now all 21 albatross species are now considered to face varying risks of extinction largely owing to longline fishing. The Laysan Albatross, previously regarded as safe, is now among these. The six species whose threatened status has been significantly upgraded according to IUCN Red List categories and criteria are:

Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross has been upgraded from Near Threatened in 2000 to Endangered in 2003 due to population declines recorded at long-term study colonies on Gough and Tristan da Cunha islands, indicating a 58% reduction over three generations (71 years). If threats do not abate, population models suggest that the species may need to be classified as Critically Endangered, the final category before becoming Extinct;

Black-browed Albatross listed as Near Threatened in 2000 and Vulnerable in 2002, now becomes Endangered, with new census information from the Falkland Islands showing that the species is likely to be declining by more than 50% over three generations (65 years);

Black-footed Albatross, listed as Vulnerable in 2000, now becomes Endangered, with new information and modelling from Hawaii revealing that declines are more serious than previously thought. The species is likely to be declining by more than 50% over three generations (56 years);

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, listed as Vulnerable in 2000, also now becomes Endangered with declines being more serious than previously thought, particularly at the stronghold population on Amsterdam Island in the French Southern Territories, and now at more than 50% over three generations (71 years); the disease avian cholera is strongly implicated in this decline.

Laysan Albatross, listed as Least Concern in 2000, now becomes Vulnerable, with new information from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands showing declines of at least 30% over three generations (84 years);

Sooty Albatross, listed as Vulnerable in 2000, now becomes Endangered (2003), with new information from breeding islands in the south Atlantic and Indian Oceans showing very serious declines of more than 75% over three generations (90 years).
The most threatened species, the Amsterdam Albatross, already classified as Critically Endangered, is threatened by disease, with the population now reduced to some 20 pairs breeding annually and increasing chick mortality.

"The number of seabirds killed by longlines is increasing, as is the number of albatross species in the higher categories of threat due to their continued use." —Dr Michael Rands, BirdLife International’s Director and Chief Executive

Dr Michael Rands, BirdLife International’s Director and Chief Executive, says: "The number of seabirds killed by longlines is increasing, as is the number of albatross species in the higher categories of threat due to their continued use. One such species, now seriously at risk, is the Laysan Albatross, which was previously considered abundant and safe. Longline fishing, especially by pirate vessels, is the single greatest threat to these seabirds."

BirdLife’s new research is particularly relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) (under the Convention on Migratory Species or Bonn Convention) as the number of countries to ratify this new agreement will soon reach the necessary five for it to enter into force. Australia, Ecuador, New Zealand and Spain have fully ratified ACAP, and either South Africa or the UK (although the latter unfortunately not covering the island territories where the albatrosses breed) will be the next to do so.

Graham Robertson/Australian Antarctic Division
A dead Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans drowned on longline
 

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