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Montevideo, September 30th 2023 - 14:08 UTC



Falklands black browed albatross: from prey feeding to fishery discards

Tuesday, July 19th 2022 - 09:51 UTC
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Counting albatrosses in New Island Counting albatrosses in New Island

Falklands' located South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute, SAERI, PhD researcher Amanda Kuepfer and her collaborators have published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science on discard use by black-browed albatross chicks, and how this relates to natural foraging conditions and breeding success.

Kuepfer A, Votier SC, Sherley RB, Ventura F, Matias R, Anderson O, Brickle P, Arkhipkin A, Catry P (2022) Prey-switching to fishery discards does not compensate for poor natural foraging conditions in breeding albatross. ICES J Mar Sci 0:1–13.

Fishery discards supplement food for many seabirds, but the impacts of declining discards are poorly understood. Discards may be beneficial for some populations but have negative impacts by increasing bycatch risk or because they are junk-food. The Falkland Islands support > 70% of global black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris populations, which feed on discards. However, the effect of discards on population demographics, and implications of fishery management changes, are unknown.

We analyzed stomach contents of black-browed albatross chicks across eight breeding seasons (2004–2020) from New Island, Falkland Islands, to assess variation in discard consumption and how this relates to foraging conditions and breeding success. Across years, 68%–98% of samples contained natural prey, whilst 23%–88% of samples contained fishery discards. Discard consumption was positively related to fishery catches of hoki Macruronus magellanicus and sea surface temperature anomalies SSTA (°C), and negatively related to breeding success.

These results suggest a diet-switching behavior for Falkland Islands albatrosses, whereby birds switch from preferred natural prey to suboptimal discards when environmental conditions, and hence natural feeding opportunities, are unfavorable. Crucially, this study highlights that fishery discards do not compensate for poor natural foraging conditions for breeding albatrosses in the long term.

Finally, many thanks to all our funders Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT, Portugal), Falkland Islands Government (ESB) & Fortuna Ltd (2019–2022)Thanks also goes to Paulo Catry head of the project from MARE(Instituto Universitário) who has been managing the long-term study at New Island and without whom such studies would not be possible.

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