Agreement on the conservation of albatrosses and petrels agreement on the conservation of albatrosses and petrels

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The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) is a legally binding international treaty signed in 2001 and entered into force on 1 February 2004 when South Africa ratified as the fifth Party to the agreement.

It was created in order to halt the drastic decline of seabird populations in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly albatrosses and petrels procellariids. Albatrosses and petrels are threatened by introduced species on their breeding islands, pollution, and being taken as bycatch by longline fisheries, as well as by trawl and gillnet fisheries. The agreement requires that measures be taken by signatory governments to reduce bycatch; protect breeding colonies; and control and remove introduced species from breeding sites, especially on islands. Currently, ACAP protects all the world's albatross species, seven Southern Hemisphere petrel and two shearwater species. The agreement marks an increasing international commitment to protect albatrosses and petrels.


The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, or ACAP, is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.


Development of the Agreement commenced in 1999. It was concluded rapidly with only two meetings required to agree the text. These meetings, held in Hobart, Australia, and Cape Town, South Africa, were attended by 16 countries and five international organizations. ACAP was opened for signature in Canberra, Australia on 19 June 2001 and entered into force on 1 February 2004, at which time all Southern Hemisphere species of albatrosses and seven petrel species were listed under its auspices. Currently (June 2015) there are 13 Parties to the Agreement - Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, France, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. The Agreement’s Secretariat is located in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. ACAP is supported by a small Secretariat which consists of an Executive Secretary, a Science Officer and an honorary Information Officer.

The First Session of the Meeting of the Parties (MoP1) was convened in November 2004 in Hobart, preceded by a two-day Scientific Meeting. A key outcome of MoP1 was the establishment of an Advisory Committee to guide the implementation of the Agreement. The Advisory Committee is supported by three working groups - the Population and Conservation Status Working Group, the Seabird Bycatch Working Group and the Taxonomy Working Group. Sessions of the Meeting of Parties are ordinarily held at three-year intervals, with the Advisory Committee and its working groups meeting in the intervening years.


The legislation authorizes the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to engage in activities that will improve conditions for albatrosses and petrels, including:

• Habitat restoration

• Control of non-native species

• Research into the conservation of albatrosses and petrels

• Development of programs to raise awareness of the issue

• By catch reduction measures and research

The legislation does not expand or alter the enforcement scheme for albatrosses and petrels found within U.S. jurisdiction, because these species are already protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Domestic fisheries would not be subject to additional restrictions on their activities under the proposed legislation.

Instead, passing this legislation and joining ACAP creates leverage to help bring other nations up to our standards. This will make U.S. fisheries more competitive in the long-run.


Of the 22 species of albatross recognized by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 15 are threatened with extinction, and eight species are either endangered or critically endangered. More than half of all petrel species are threatened with extinction. Threats to seabirds include by catch from long line fishing, especially from illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries in the Southern Ocean, as well as the introduction of invasive predators, and marine pollution.


ACAP helps countries to implement species action plans, control the expansion of non-native predators, introduce measures reducing bycatch of seabirds, and support research in the sphere of the effective conservation of petrels and albatrosses. To this end it has published ACAP Species Assessments, booklets, mitigation factsheets, and a number of ACAP Conservation Guidelines, including for bio-security; eradication of introduced mammals; translocation; and census and survey methods. One of the agreement's main activities is to provide expert advice on seabird bycatch mitigation to fisheries managers, both in domestic and high seas fisheries.


Thirteen countries (known as Parties to the Agreement) have joined the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. Uruguay is the last country to have joined ACAP, having deposited its Instrument of Ratification on 9 October 2008, and becoming a Party on 1 January 2009. Uruguay joined the other Parties to the Agreement which are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, Ecuador, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.


The following 31 species of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters are listed by the agreement.

List of albatrosses covered by the agreement:

• Northern Royal Albatross

• Southern Royal Albatross

• Wandering Albatross

• Antipodean Albatross

• Amsterdam Albatross

• Tristan Albatross

• Sooty Albatross

• Light-mantled Albatross

• Waved Albatross

• Short-tailed Albatross

• Laysan Albatross

• Black-footed Albatross

• Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross

• Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross

• Grey-headed Albatross

• Black-browed Albatross

• Campbell Albatross

• Buller's Albatross

• Shy Albatross

• White-capped Albatross

• Chatham Albatross

• Salvin's Albatross

List of petrels and shearwaters covered by the agreement:

• Southern Giant Petrel

• Northern Giant Petrel

• White-chinned Petrel

• Spectacled Petrel

• Black Petrel

• Westland Petrel

• Grey Petrel

• Balearic Shearwater

• Pink-footed Shearwater


One of the most significant threats facing albatrosses and petrels is mortality resulting from interactions with fishing gear, especially longline- and trawl-fishing operations. In addition, birds may be threatened at their breeding sites by introduced predators, diseases, habitat loss and human disturbance. The Agreement provides a focus for international cooperation and the exchange of information and expertise, and the Action Plan annexed to the Agreement offers a framework for the implementation of effective conservation measures for these threatened seabirds, both on land and at sea. Although individual nations are taking measures to protect albatrosses and petrels, international cooperative action is also required. Albatrosses and petrels are susceptible to threats operating throughout their wide migratory ranges that extend across national boundaries into international waters and it is unlikely that actions by any one nation alone will be effective in improving their global conservation status. International cooperation on albatross and petrel conservation thus enhances the prospects for successful conservation measures across their ranges.





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