Time running out for Antipodes Island wandering albatross

The critically endangered Antipodes Island wandering albatross will be functionally extinct within the next 20 years unless the devastating decline in their population is halted, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage says.

The population of this rare wandering albatross, which breeds almost exclusively on the remote Antipodes Island in the New Zealand subantarctic, has experienced an alarming decline in the past 13 years, with very high mortality of females and reduced breeding success.

Ms Sage, who has just visited Antipodes Island, says at their current rate of decline fewer than 500 pairs will remain within 20 years.

“In 1994-96, there were 5,180 pairs breeding each year on Antipodes Island. By 2015-17, there were only an estimated 2,900 pairs breeding there each year. More research is underway to better understand the situation. If nothing changes, at their current rate of decline, their future is very grim.”

The decline in numbers coincides with a change in foraging behaviour, with females in particular travelling much further than they formerly did, taking them into international waters north east of New Zealand and as far east as Chile.

Females are dying in large numbers, which has led to a very skewed sex ratio in the population, with many males now unable to find a partner.

“The main known human cause of adult mortality is bycatch in fisheries.  Wandering albatrosses are known to be highly susceptible to bycatch, particularly in pelagic longline fisheries such as those targeting tuna.  Reduced food, squid and fish, and alteration in the birds’ foraging locations due to changing ocean temperatures and wind speed may be the cause of reduced breeding success in recent years,” Ms Sage said.

New Zealand is actively working with international organisations such as the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to highlight the concern for Antipodes Island wandering albatrosses when they leave New Zealand waters and to try and ensure fisheries bycatch risks are appropriately managed, even on the high seas.

In New Zealand waters, a National Plan of Action has been developed to reduce seabird bycatch. New Zealand vessels are required to use bird scaring lines and daytime line setting among other methods, to minimise any chance of accidentally hooking and drowning seabirds.

“Further research on the diet and foraging patterns of Antipodes Island wandering albatrosses can help better understand what is happening to these birds.

“The rapid collapse of the Antipodes Island wandering albatross population means we need urgent international action to prevent this magnificent species sliding into extinction.”

“Such action could include protecting important seabird feeding areas to reduce albatross deaths on hooks in pelagic longline fisheries for tuna and swordfish.”

“Gaining a better understanding of the birds’ diet will help us identify how fishing may be influencing the availability of prey, and could potentially allow for fisheries management to improve the availability of prey species for the Antipodes Island wandering albatross.”

Note

The term "wandering albatross" refers to a group of  five great albatrosses, of which only two breed in the New Zealand subantarctic region, one in the Auckland Islands and one on Antipodes Island.

 

Latest Environment Announcements

Story

Budget 2022: Greens call for urgency with nature-first climate investments

Budget 2022 shows progress on conservation commitments in the Green Party’s cooperation agreement Green Party achievements in the last Government ...
Read More

Story

Nature needs us to act right now

The Green Party welcomes the release of the implementation plan for Te Mana o te Taiao Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy and calls on the ...
Read More

Story

Urgent action needed to bring natural environment back from the brink

The release today of Environment Aotearoa 2022 is a sobering reminder of what is at stake if the Government does not step up and take urgent action...
Read More

Story

Greens welcome Three Waters recommendations

The Green Party welcomes the recommendations of the Three Waters independent working group and urges the Government to seriously consider the repor...
Read More

Story

Green Party says Government needs to do better to protect our drinking water

The Green Party is calling on the Government to improve environmental standards so every New Zealander has access to clean, healthy drinking water.
Read More

Story

The time to protect our oceans is now

The Green Party is calling on the Government to support a strong global treaty at the United Nations to protect our oceans, as Greenpeace hands ove...
Read More

Latest Conservation Announcements

Story

Stewardship land recommendations fall short of protecting nature

The proposed reclassification of stewardship land on the West Coast doesn’t go far enough to protect nature and the area’s spectacular landscapes, ...
Read More

Story

Nature needs us to act right now

The Green Party welcomes the release of the implementation plan for Te Mana o te Taiao Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy and calls on the ...
Read More

Story

The time to protect our oceans is now

The Green Party is calling on the Government to support a strong global treaty at the United Nations to protect our oceans, as Greenpeace hands ove...
Read More

Story

Protect seamounts and ban bottom trawling right now

The Green Party is renewing its call for Minister for the Environment, David Parker to immediately ban bottom trawling on seamounts.
Read More

Story

Greens welcome Government plan for law change to better protect nature

The Green Party supports Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan’s announcements today that Government intends to review the Wildlife Act 1953 and pro...
Read More

Story

No new mines: It’s time to uphold your promise

The Green Party has launched a campaign calling on the Minister for Conservation, Kiritapu Allan and Minister for Energy, Megan Woods to fulfil a p...
Read More