American Bird Conservancy's Seabirds Program

Black-capped Petrel by Glen Tepke
Black-capped Petrel by Glen Tepke


 

The Challenge
 

Seabird bycatch from commercial and artisanal longline fisheries is decimating seabird populations on a global scale. Additional threats to seabirds, including predation by introduced mammals on seabird breeding islands, marine trash, poisoning from pollutants such as lead, and potentially global warming, have made seabirds the most threatened group of birds on Earth. An astounding 19 out of 22 species of albatross have now been flagged by scientists as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. American Bird Conservancy is the only U.S. national bird conservation group working throughout the Western Hemisphere to solve these problems for albatrosses and other seabirds.


 

ABC Conservation Framework
 

Seabirds are one of the most endangered group of birds in the world, with 19 out of 22 species of albatross considered threatened with extinction. Efforts to save these species comes under Safeguarding the Rarest within ABC's Conservation Framework
pyramid icon - rarest

 

Primary Birds Impacted
 

19 out of 22 albatross species, including Laysan, Black-footed, Short-tailed, and Waved; plus Hawaiian, Bermuda, White-chinned, Spectacled, Black, and Southern Giant Petrels; Ashy Storm-Petrel; Newell’s Buller's and Pink-footed Shearwaters; and Marbled, Craveri's, and Xantus's Murrelets.


 

Solutions
 

There are well-known and proven solutions to the problem of seabird bycatch on longlines that have helped reduce albatross deaths by nearly 100% in some situations. Education of fishermen operating in small, artisanal fleets off the coast of South America is also key to prevent the deaths of albatrosses and petrels on their lines.

 

Eradication of introduced mammals such as rats and cats, and invasive alien vegetation from seabird breeding islands is key to the survival of some populations. On Midway Atoll, removal of lead paint from old buildings is urgently needed to prevent the deaths of thousands of albatrosses each year.



 

ABC Results
 

ABC Results Button

ABC, along with co-plaintiffs Hui Ho‘omalu I Ka ‘Äina, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, and Center for Biological Diversity, and represented by Earthjustice, settled a lawsuit brought against the St. Regis Princeville Resort on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i over its failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act. Under a settlement agreement reached on October 8, 2010, St. Regis will further reduce its lighting and fund programs aimed at restoring populations of threatened Newell’s Shearwaters and endangered Hawaiian Petrels.


ABC Results Button

ABC was the first U.S. non-profit organization to highlight the seabird bycatch problem in America. Thanks in part to ABC advocacy efforts, albatross bycatch due to longlines has been reduced from an estimated average of 1,051 per year in Alaska and 2,377 in Hawaii to 185 and 136 respectively; this despite a near doubling of the number of hooks set in Hawaii.


ABC Results Button

ABC has been a major force in the development of strong National Plans of Action on Seabirds Fishery Interactions for the United States, Chile, and Argentina.

ABC Results Button

ABC has, for the first time, documented significant bycatch of Waved Albatrosses in Ecuador and Peru, and is now working with local fishermen and the Ecuadorian government to stop the problem. On nesting grounds on Espanola in the Galapagos, ABC worked with Charles Darwin Foundation to develop a monitoring plan. ABC also initiated the first ever assessment of interactions between southern Ecuadorian fisheries and Waved Albatrosses.

ABC Results Button

ABC worked alongside the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help it adopt seabirds as one of its “keystone” initiatives, triggering a major, ten-year commitment to make a population-level change to benefit targeted species.

ABC Results Button

ABC has published a comprehensive report in English, Spanish, and Chinese, detailing the extent of seabird bycatch worldwide, and how it can best be solved.

ABC Results Button

ABC is advocating for new legislation to eradicate invasive species that are taking over seabird breeding grounds and hampering breeding success, particularly Verbesina on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

ABC Results Button

ABC has drawn attention to the problem of lead poisoning on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, where lead-based paint peeling from aging military buildings is eaten by curious Laysan Albatross chicks, killing thousands each year. Following these efforts, several buildings have been made lead-free.



 

What Next?
 

What Next Button

The United States has still not become a signatory to the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). Although the U.S. is already in compliance with ACAP, signing the treaty would allow us to develop international standards for interaction between marine birds and fisheries.

What Next Button

ABC, along with co-plaintiffs Hui Ho‘omalu I Ka ‘Äina, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, and Center for Biological Diversity, and represented by Earthjustice, filed a suit against the Kaua‘I Island Utility Cooperative over its failure to comply with Endangered Species Act regulations requiring the utility to reduce the collision hazards posed to threatened Newell’s Shearwaters and endangered Hawaiian Petrels by its power lines and street lighting. The plaintiff group is asking the utility to make modifications to its operations to protect seabirds, fund programs aimed at protecting and restoring nesting colonies, and to acquire an Incidental Take Permit from state and federal authorities and enter into a Habitat Conservation Plan to mitigate for long-term impacts to seabirds.

What Next Button

More stringent regulations, both domestically and internationally, are still required to better protect some seabird populations from longline fishing hooks.

What Next Button

The remaining 70 buildings on Midway Atoll need to be stripped of lead paint to eliminate the threat to albatross chicks. Read more about lead paint on Midway Atoll

What Next Button

Also on Midway, the invasive plant verbesina is choking out albatross nests and causing the deaths of chicks. This alien shrub needs to be eradicated from the island to protect the breeding birds and their young.


Take Action
   
Seabird Magazine CoverRead more about ABC's efforts to protect the rarest seabirds throughout the Americas in our specialseabird issue of BIrd Conservation Magazine
   
   
 
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