Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels
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. The population of black-browed albatrosses, one of the world's abundant albatross species, has declined by more than 40 percent in the last 30 years.
Albatrosses and petrels are threatened by introduced species on their breeding islands, pollution, and being taken as bycatch by longline fisheries (which kill more than 300,000 seabirds a year, as well as by trawl and gillnet fisheries. The Agreement requires that measures be taken by signatory governments (Parties) to reduce bycatch (by the use of mitigation measures), protection of breeding colonies and control and removal of introduced species from breeding islands.
Currently ACAP protects all the world's albatross species and seven southern-hemisphere petrel species. The Agreement marks the increasing international commitment to protect albatrosses and petrels, and is a considerable step forward in the fight to protect these charismatic seabirds.
The Agreement entered into force on 1 February 2004. National representatives of the signatory countries meet regularly.
|Hobart, Australia||10-12 November 2004|
|Christchurch, New Zealand||13-17 November 2006|
|Bergen, Norway||April/May 2009|
|Lima, Peru||23-27 April 2012|
|Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain||4-8 May 2015|
Six meetings of ACAP's Advisory Committee (AC) have been held to date, the last in Guayaquil, Ecuador from 29 August to 2 September 2011. The AC is currently supported by three working groups (WGs), which usually meet immediately prior to AC meetings. The WGs are for Taxonomy (TWG), Seabird Bycatch (SBWG) and Population and Conservation Status (PaCSWG). Each working group is managed by (co-)convenors who are experts in their fields.
Final reports and documented papers for all these meetings are freely available for downloading and consultation on the ACAP web site in the Agreement's three official languages of English, French and Spanish.
Albatrosses and petrels
Albatrosses and petrels are migratory seabirds which mainly breed on remote offshore islands and forage over the open sea. They can travel enormous distances across oceans during foraging flights and migratory journeys.
Albatrosses and petrels are among the most threatened groups of birds in the world. Of the world's 22 species of albatrosses, 17 are currently categorized on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. The remaining five are listed as near threatened. Four of the ACAP-listed petrels and shearwaters are categorized as vulnerable, one as critically endangered, one is near threatened and the two giant petrels are categorized as of least concern.
This is due to a combination of threats that have drastically reduced the populations of albatrosses and petrels, including:
- Hunting and poaching for eggs, meat, and feathers;
- Habitat destruction;
- The introduction of non-native predators
- The use of longline fishing, used to catch finfish and sharks; thousands of seabirds are caught with a main line and hooks attached to branchlines, causing them to be pulled under the water by the weight of the line and drown. This threat can be reduced by modification of fishing practices and adaptation of bycatch mitigation measures. Such measures include the use of (sometimes paired) bird-scaring lines carrying streamers, weighted lines to reduce the amount of time baits are available to birds at and near the sea surface, setting lines at night, setting lines beneath the sea surface, and seasonal closures of fisheries to avoid fishing when birds are more susceptible to being caught, such as around nesting colonies during the breeding season. 
Paired bird-scaring lines are also a suitable deterrent that reduces mortality of seabirds in trawl fisheries, mainly from albatrosses colliding with warp cables. Avoiding offal discharge (which attracts scavenging seabirds such as albatrosses and petrels) during trawling also helps reduce mortality.
ACAP helps countries to implement species action plans, control the expansion of non-native predators, which can harm albatrosses and petrels, 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 for all 29 listed species, 14 mitigation factsheets and two conservation guidelines for biosecurity and for eradication of introduced mammals on its web site. ACAP Latest News on the web site is a daily news service that aims to inform site visitors of activities and research findings around the world relevant to the conservation and management of the listed species and of their habitats. It is produced by ACAP's honorary information officer, John Cooper, who is supported by a team of four regional news correspondents for Australasia, Europe, the North Pacific and South America. ACAP Daily News may be accessed via ACAP's Facebook page or directly from its website.
One of the Agreement's key activities is to provide expert advice on seabird bycatch mitigation to fisheries managers, both in domestic and high seas fisheries. To this end ACAP regularly participates in relevant meetings of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), and in particular, the tuna RFMOs that govern the activities of many of the longline fishing fleets that operate on the high seas.
Species covered by the Agreement
The following 30 species of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters are listed by the Agreement.
List of albatrosses covered by the Agreement:
- Northern royal albatross (Diomedea sanfordi)
- Southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora)
- Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans)
- Antipodean albatross (Diomedea antipodensis)
- Amsterdam albatross (Diomedea amsterdamensis)
- Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena)
- Sooty albatross (Phoebetria fusca)
- Light-mantled albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata)
- Waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata)
- Short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria albatrus)
- Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis)
- Black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes)
- Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross (Thalassarche chlororhynchos)
- Indian yellow-nosed albatross (Thalassarche carteri)
- Grey-headed albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma)
- Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris)
- Campbell albatross (Thalassarche impavida)
- Buller's albatross (Thalassarche bulleri)
- Shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta)
- White-capped albatross (Thalassarche steadi)
- Chatham albatross (Thalassarche eremita)
- Salvin's albatross (Thalassarche salvini)
List of petrels covered by the Agreement:
- Southern giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus)
- Northern giant petrel (Macronectes halli)
- White-chinned petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis)
- Spectacled petrel (Procellaria conspicillata)
- Black petrel (Procellaria parkinsoni)
- Westland petrel (Procellaria westlandica)
- Grey petrel (Procellaria cinerea)
- Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus)
The following 13 countries are parties to the Agreement:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
Canada and the United States regularly send observer delegations to ACAP meetings, but have not as yet acceded to the Agreement. In addition Japan has sent delegations in the last few years.