The white-chinned petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis) on South Georgia: population size, distribution and global significance
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- Martin, A.R., Poncet, S., Barbraud, C. et al. Polar Biol (2009) 32: 655. doi:10.1007/s00300-008-0570-5
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More white-chinned petrels (Procellaria aequinoctialis) are accidentally killed in fisheries than probably any other seabird in the world, but the population impact of this mortality is poorly understood, partly because there have been no recent estimates of the species’ abundance. The breeding aggregation on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia is believed to be larger than all others combined. We estimated the size of this population by calculating the area of suitable habitat and the density of occupied burrows within it. Some 670,000 occupied nests were estimated for the island at mid-incubation, representing 0.9 million pairs of breeding-age birds associated with South Georgia in the survey seasons (2005/06 and 06/07). This is 40–45% of the previous estimate, but still represents well over half of the global population. If the population is declining due to fishery bycatch, as is likely, the scale of annual mortality in this population alone is at least in the high tens of thousands, and plausibly hundreds of thousands.