The July edition of the South Georgia Newsletter has an interesting comment on the recent announcement that the Falklands’ population of black-browed Albatross has seen a healthy increase in the number of breeding birds, information that has been submitted to BirdLife International for use in the Red List assessment process
The news is of most significance for South Georgia which holds the world’s second largest black-browed population and appears to be in not such a successful track.
Although the South Georgia population appears to be in decline, because the Falklands' population constitutes such a large proportion of the global population, this is likely to result in the global conservation status of the species being changed to a less threatened category.
The exact reasons for the increase in the Falklands population are not entirely clear, but efforts to reduce seabird by-catch, and beneficial feeding conditions, are likely to have contributed.
By-catch of Black-browed Albatrosses in South Georgia fisheries has through the effective implementation of a range of mitigation measures been successfully reduced to negligible numbers. Given the wide ranging nature of the species, and the lack of evidence for threats at their breeding sites, the ongoing decline in the numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses breeding at South Georgia is likely due, at least in part, to the impacts of external fisheries, those operating on the high seas and in the jurisdictional waters of other countries.
Dr Cleo Small, a coordinator of BirdLife International's Global Seabird Programme at the RSPB, said: When 17 out of the world's 22 species of albatross are listed as threatened with extinction, it is hugely encouraging that black-browed albatross colonies in the Falkland Islands are now known to be increasing. There is still some way to go, with the UK Overseas Territories' other major black-browed albatross population on South Georgia continuing to decline, but this result gives us great hope for turning around the fortunes of other albatross species. By-catch in fisheries is the main threat, and efforts are underway in many longline and trawl fleets worldwide to reduce the number of albatrosses killed. If we can keep this up, there is real hope that the black-browed albatross will set a trend for the future.