New population figures for the critically endangered Antipodean albatross that show a 5 percent decline per year highlight the importance of reducing all threats to these special birds, New Zealand’s Acting Minister of Conservation, Dr Ayesha Verrall, has said.
The latest data science modelling has emphasised that the bird population, classified as nationally critical, is steadily declining.
Currently there are estimated to be around 3,200 breeding pairs. But, at the projected rate of decline, only about 400 pairs may remain in 2050.
This weekend marked World Albatross Day, with the theme ‘Ensuring Albatross-Friendly Fisheries’. This references the number of albatross and petrels killed in fisheries and the efforts being made to combat this.
Albatross on verge of extinction in three generations
“A decline of this magnitude is particularly concerning for a long-lived and slow-breeding species like the Antipodean albatross,” 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.”
The Minister explained that, 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,” Verrall stated.
“It will be phased in to prioritise vessels that pose the greatest threat to protected species, including the Antipodean albatross.”
We need more breeding success and bycatch reductions
“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.”
According to the Minister, the New Zealand Department of Conservation 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.
New Zealand is regarded as the albatross capital of the world, with 17 species found across the nation’s waters and territories, and 11 species breeding locally.