Six albatross species move further towards brink of extinction

Subject: Six albatross species move further towards brink of extinction
From: (Andrew Taylor)
Date: Sun, 7 Sep 2003 11:46:31 +1000

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

* 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

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.

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