Status of Seabirds in Australia

Subject: Status of Seabirds in Australia
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Wed, 29 May 2002 16:51:17 -0000
Normally I wouldn't bother but just having posted a pelagic trip report to BIRDING-AUS which will also be published in the Australasian Seabird Bulletin, filled out 6 Atlas forms and sent a report to SOSSA, I wondered why I was bothering to collect all this data if it is going to be ignored. So I wrote this.
Status of Australian Seabirds.

The paper by Barry Baker, Rosemary Gales, Sheryl Hamilton & Victoria Wilkinson, ‘Albatrosses and petrels in Australia: a review of their conservation and management’, in the latest Emu, 2002, 102 (1), 71-97, unfortunately contains some significant errors.

            My main beef is with ‘Table 2. Population size and status of Procellariiformes taxa foraging but not breeding in Australia’.

Here are some examples. Under the heading ‘Sighting rate in Australian waters’, we read that the Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross is ‘Infrequent’ whereas Buller’s Albatross is ‘Common’. The truth is that throughout Australia, Yellow-nosed Albatrosses from the Indian Ocean out-number Buller’s Albatross by at least one, if not two, orders of magnitude! Black Petrel and Buller’s Shearwater are said to be ‘Common’ whereas Hutton’s Shearwater, ‘Rare’. Actually, the reverse would be nearer the mark. Black Petrel is so rare, that Birds Australia Rarities Committee must assess sightings before acceptance. Amsterdam Albatross is said to be rare but in fact is unknown in Australia! White-capped Albatross, the New Zealand form of Shy Albatross is ranked as common but how do we know? Most of us consider the diagnostics of separating these forms at sea unreliable.

As to how they could make such errors, I looked through the very long list of references (over 200). Some reports and important papers such as those by Kevin Woods regarding NSW are missing but HANZAB and others are there. But then I found ‘Woods (1988)’ cited for ‘Table 1’, but it ain’t in the ‘References’!

For this important paper to have credibility, these and other errors should be corrected. If allowed to stand, it could harm the reputation of Emu.     

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mt Eliza    VIC     3930
Ph:  (03) 9787 7136
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