Status and trends of albatrosses in the French Southern Territories, Western Indian Ocean

Abstract

Today albatrosses are threatened worldwide, especially by fishing activities, and many populations are currently in decline. Albatrosses breeding at the French Southern Territories in the south-western Indian Ocean, on the Crozet, Kerguelen and Saint-Paul–Amsterdam island archipelagos, are monitored regularly. This monitoring has been based on a sample of species and sites, and there was a need for an assessment of the population trends for all species at each site. During the past 3 years most populations have been surveyed, allowing an assessment of the trends of albatrosses breeding at the archipelagos of the French Southern Territories over the past 40 years. Wandering Albatrosses show similar trends at all sites within the Crozet and Kerguelen archipelagos, with a recent recovery of colonies after strong declines in the 1970s. Amsterdam Albatrosses are increasing, albeit at lower rates during recent years. Indian Yellow-nosed Albatrosses show a global decline over the entire range. The trends among Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses vary between colonies and archipelagos. Sooty Albatrosses have continuously decreased in numbers whereas Light-mantled Albatross numbers vary considerably between years, with an overall increase over the past 30 years. These results confirm that the French Southern Territories in the south-west Indian Ocean support a significant portion of the world populations of several albatross species. Several species appear to be steadily decreasing probably because of the impact of fisheries and disease outbreaks. The reasons for different trends among populations of the same species are not well understood and require further investigation.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the French Polar Institute (Program IPEV 109), Réserve Nationale des Terres Australes Françaises), and the Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition (ACE), a scientific expedition carried out under the auspices of the Swiss Polar Institute, supported by funding from the ACE Foundation and Ferring Pharmaceuticals. We thank the crews of the French Navy ships Floreal and Nivose and especially the helicopter pilots for their help. We thank all the fieldworkers involved in the long-term monitoring programme, and Gaspard Bernard, Nicolas Moulin and Benoit Gineste for their help with the helicopter photographs and photographic counts. We thank Marc Lebouvier and Zone Atelier Antarctique for providing with the Ile de l’Est satellite image. We thank three anonymous reviewers for extensive changes and suggestions on a previous version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Henri Weimerskirch.

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The study took place in the National Reserve of ‘Terres Australes Francaises’ and was approved by the Préfet des TAAF.

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Weimerskirch, H., Delord, K., Barbraud, C. et al. Status and trends of albatrosses in the French Southern Territories, Western Indian Ocean. Polar Biol 41, 1963–1972 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-018-2335-0

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Keywords

  • Crozet
  • Kerguelen
  • Amsterdam
  • Fisheries
  • Monitoring