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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

10 July 2000

AUSTRALIA PROMOTES AGREEMENT ON ALBATROSS PROTECTION


Australia's push for the development of an international conservation agreement covering Southern Hemisphere albatrosses is a step closer today with the commencement of an international meeting in Hobart from 10-14 July.

Speaking at the opening of the meeting today, Federal Environment and Heritage Minister Robert Hill said global cooperation to conserve albatrosses is essential to ensure the recovery and success of the species.

"Albatrosses are highly migratory birds flying thousands of kilometres across the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Consequently they are a premier example of why individual countries acting alone cannot guarantee their survival," Senator Hill said.

"This is the first time that a large number of countries identified as Range States for Southern Hemisphere albatrosses have been given the opportunity to meet and discuss the most effective ways of protecting these magnificent birds," Senator Hill said.

"This meeting will be attended by countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Korea, Nambia, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA and is one in a string of Australian initiatives on albatross conservation.

"In May 1997 Australia successfully proposed that all Southern Hemisphere albatross be listed on the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). The listing obliges parties to the convention to implement agreements promoting conservation and management actions.

"Australia is leading the development of an international agreement for the conservation of Southern Hemisphere albatrosses under CMS, and the agreement will be the focus of this meeting.

"The international agreement aims to coordinate conservation actions by many countries to conserve Southern Hemisphere albatrosses. Australia will focus on seeking agreement to immediate on-ground actions to recover the species."

Senator Hill said Australia is very active domestically in conserving and protecting our albatrosses. Four of the 21 species found in Australian waters are listed as nationally endangered and a further 13 are listed as nationally vulnerable.

"In 1999/2000 over $227,000 have been spent on research and monitoring programs dedicated to the conservation of albatrosses in Australian waters, including a number of projects funded through the Federal Government's $1.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust." (See attached case studies)

"Southern Hemisphere albatrosses are an integral part of the marine ecosystem and it is clear that all of the countries through which these birds pass on their migratory travels must plan and work together to ensure the survival of these great ocean migrants," Senator Hill said.

Contacts:
Matt Brown (Senator Hill) (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Anne Marie Delahunt (Environment Australia) 0412 446 136




ALBATROSS CASE STUDIES FUNDED THROUGH THE NATURAL HERITAGE TRUST

DEVELOPMENT OF SEABIRD BY-CATCH MITIGATION MEASURES



Funding: $50,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust's Endangered Species Program
Proponents: Parks and Wildlife Service of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment
Description: This project is investigating the effectiveness of two techniques to enable long-line fishers to set their lines underwater - underwater line setting chutes and underwater line-setting capsules. They will be assessed for their ability to reduce seabird by-catch (including albatrosses) and mortality during long-line fishing operations in the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ). This research is in accordance with the Federal Government's Threat Abatement Plan for the Incidental Catch (or by-catch) of Seabirds During Oceanic Longline Fishing Operations. The effectiveness of the devices will be tested for extended periods in areas within the AFZ where there is a high probability of the occurrence of seabird by-catch, for example the Tasmanian Southern Blue Fin Tuna fishing grounds. The project commenced in January 2000 and is expected to conclude in November 2000.


GENETIC PROFILING OF SHY ALBATROSS POPULATIONS


Funding: $29,500 from the Natural Heritage Trust's Marine Species Protection Program
Proponents: Australian National University, Division of Botany and Zoology
Description: This project aims to discover colony-specific genetic markers for the three populations of the endemic Shy Albatross and, where possible, for the four populations of the White-Capped Albatross, a closely related species endemic to New Zealand. The genetic markers will be used to identify Shy Albatrosses caught during longline fishing operations in the Australian Fishing Zone and determine their island of origin. The technique will also help to determine if any populations are being disproportionately affected by current fishing efforts and provide a basis for recommendations on the management of longline fisheries to minimise the impact on, and so conserve, these affected populations. The project commenced in 1998 and is expected to conclude in 2001.


MONITORING OF SHY ALBATROSSES IN AUSTRALIA - POPULATION AND CONSERVATION ASSESSMENT


Funding: $97,625 from the Natural Heritage Trust's Marine Species Protection Program
Proponents: Parks and Wildlife Service of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment
Description: This project aims to determine population parameters for Australia's populations of the endemic Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta). Research such as this is critical in establishing population trends and determining the level of impact that external threats are having on breeding populations. It is intended that the project will include an estimation of survival and recruitment rates for the species, an investigation of the impact of longline fishing effort and by-catch rates on populations and the development and implementation of an effective and long-term monitoring program that is cost effective and meets the requirements of the Threat Abatement Plan and Albatross Recovery Plan. The project commenced in 1998 and is expected to conclude in 2001.


DEVELOPMENT OF SEABIRD COLLECTION KITS AND PROCEDURES


Funding: $10,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust's Endangered Species Program.
Proponents: Parks and Wildlife Service of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment
Description: A kit for the on-board collection and storage of any and all seabirds killed on longline fishing vessels is being developed. The kit is designed to ensure that any seabirds killed during longline fishing operations can be stored on board the vessel in a manner that will limit decay of the specimen and meet Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) requirements. The project involved close consultation with AQIS during its development. This research is being conducted in accordance with the Threat Abatement Plan for the Incidental Catch (or by-catch) of Seabirds During Oceanic Longline Fishing Operations. The project involves the development of a protocol explaining what is required of longline fishers who catch seabirds. Instructions for the fishers include the labelling of specimens with specially designed tags and serial numbers and the recording of relevant information on specially designed data sheets. The project commenced in January 2000 and will conclude in July 2000.


IDENTIFICATION AND ANALYSIS OF SEABIRDS KILLED IN LONGLINE FISHING OPERATIONS WITHIN THE AUSTRALIAN FISHING ZONE


Funding: $10,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust's Endangered Species Program.
Proponents: Parks and Wildlife Service of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.
Description: This project aims to identify all seabirds collected from longline fishing vessels operating within the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ). In addition, information such as the species, subspecies, age, sex, breeding status and banding information for all collected birds was to be identified and recorded (wherever possible). This research was conducted in response to the Threat Abatement Plan for the Incidental Catch (or by-catch) of Seabirds During Oceanic Longline Fishing Operations. The design, development and maintenance of a computerised database to store the above information was also achieved during the course of the project. The project began operation in January 2000 and concluded in May 2000.


STATUS OF MACQUARIE ISLAND ALBATROSSES AND GIANT PETRELS


Funding: $25,000 in 1999/2000 from the Natural Heritage Trust's Endangered Species Program.
Proponents: Parks and Wildlife Service of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.
Description: The aim of this project was to conduct a population census of four species of albatrosses breeding on Macquarie Island (Wandering, Grey-Headed, Black-Browed and Light-Mantled Sooty Albatrosses) and the Northern and Southern Giant Petrels during the 1998/99 breeding season. The project investigated breeding success rates of the species, provided recommendations regarding effective management of visitor disturbance to the species and conducted preliminary trails of attaching transmitters to two species. In addition, banding of fledglings and non-breeding adults was conducted to complement the on-going demographic database. This monitoring project commenced in 1995.


SHY ALBATROSS POPULATION MONITORING - AERIAL CENSUS TECHNIQUE


Funding: $5,000 from the Natural Heritage Trust's Endangered Species Program
Proponents: Parks and Wildlife Service of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment
Description: The aim of this project was to conduct a census of the Mewstone, Pedra Branca and Albatross Island Shy Albatross colonies using an aerial census technique. This technique was a less invasive and disruptive means of obtaining population data for this vulnerable species than on-ground techniques. Ground counts and aerial surveys of the three island colonies were conducted and permanent survey plots were established on Mewstone Island. The aerial counts obtained from photographic records were validated for accuracy with the ground count data. The project commenced in January 1999 and concluded in June 1999.


Total expenditure in 1999/2000 on research and monitoring of albatrosses in Australia     $227,125

Commonwealth of Australia