Recent population estimates and trends in numbers of albatrosses and giant petrels breeding at the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands

  • PG Ryan
  • MGW Jones
  • BM Dyer
  • L Upfold
  • RJM Crawford

Abstract

The second mid-summer survey of surface-nesting seabirds at the Prince Edward Island group (Marion and Prince Edward islands) was conducted during December 2008, seven years after the initial mid-summer survey. Wandering albatrosses Diomedea exulans may have decreased slightly at Prince Edward Island, mirroring a decrease of  roughly 2% per year at Marion Island from 1998 to 2005, a decline that has since reversed. Numbers of grey-headed albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma on Marion Island have remained stable, whereas the population on Prince Edward Island decreased by 20% from 2001 to 2008 (3% per year). The estimate of Indian yellow-nosed albatrosses T. carteri at Prince Edward Island was similar in 2001 and 2008. Counts of both sooty albatrosses Phoebetria spp. were substantially higher at Prince Edward Island in 2008, possibly as a result of better coverage compared to 2001. Dark-mantled sooty albatrosses P. fusca on Marion Island have decreased by almost 2% per year since 1996, continuing a negative trend from the early 1980s, whereas light-mantled sooty albatrosses P. palpebrata have increased by almost 6% per year at Marion Island since 1996. Counts of both giant petrels increased at Prince Edward Island (northern Macronectes halli by 44%; southern M. giganteus by 28%), whereas their numbers have remained stable at Marion Island. Current best estimates for annual breeding populations (pairs) at the two islands are 3 650 wandering albatrosses, 9 500 grey-headed albatrosses, 7 000 Indian yellow-nosed albatrosses, 2 900  dark-mantled sooty albatrosses, 800 lightmantled sooty albatrosses, 750 northern giant petrels and 2 800 southern giant petrels, confirming the global importance of the Prince Edward Islands for these seven species. Apart from the dark-mantled sooty albatross, their populations are reasonably healthy despite fishing mortality.

Keywords: Diomedea; Macronectes; Marion Island; population size; population trends; Phoebetria; Prince Edward Island; Thalassarche

African Journal of Marine Science 2009, 31(3): 409–417

Author Biographies

PG Ryan
Percy FitzPatrick Institute, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
MGW Jones
Percy FitzPatrick Institute, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
BM Dyer
Marine and Coastal Management, Department of Environmental Affairs, Private Bag X2, Rogge Bay 8012, South Africa
L Upfold
Marine and Coastal Management, Department of Environmental Affairs, Private Bag X2, Rogge Bay 8012, South Africa
RJM Crawford
Marine and Coastal Management, Department of Environmental Affairs, Private Bag X2, Rogge Bay 8012, South Africa; Animal Demography Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
Section
Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 1814-2338
print ISSN: 1814-232X