Posted on the 5th December 2010

(This overview of BLSA's work on seabirds during 2010 was taken from CEO Mark Anderson's report to Council on 4 December 2010. - Ed.)


Dr Ross Wanless is the Manager of the Seabird Division, and three staff (Bronwyn Maree, Lisa Mansfield and Meidad Goren) report to him. One of the key components of the Seabird Division’s work is the Albatross Task Force (ATF) responsibilities:

· Two posters were presented by Bronwyn Maree and Lisa Mansfield at the World Seabird Conference in Canada.

· A meeting with industry was attended by Bronwyn Maree to further develop the offal management project.

· The ATF quarterly report was submitted.

· The observer form and database were updated by Lisa Mansfield.

· Four observers were debriefed by Lisa Mansfield after sea trips as part of the Observer Programme.

· Six trawl sea trips were conducted: three Rory line and three normal (three by Bronwyn Maree, two by Lisa Mansfield and one by Meidad Goren).

· Bronwyn Maree presented a talk at the Western Cape Forum meeting.

· Five skipper interviews were conducted (four by Bronwyn Maree and one by LisaMansfield).

· Ross Wanless and Bronwyn Maree attended the Scientific Demersal Working Group meeting.

· Six Atlas of Seabirds at Sea cards were collected by Lisa Mansfield.

· Lisa Mansfield continued delivery of seabird carcasses to UCT for scientific research.

· The WWF Living Waters Symposium was attended and assistance in discussion and report given by Bronwyn Maree about the Tori Line project (Ocean View Centre for People with Disabilities).

· A submission of formal seabird data collection protocol for observers to Oceans and Coast was made by Bronwyn Maree.

One matter worth reporting is the DWG (Demersal Working Group) which meets annually to discuss recommendations to the DEA Minister for the management of thedemersal fisheries in South Africa. Recently, WWF-SA released its updated SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) assessments, resulting in kingklip remaining on the orange list. The industry was less than happy with this outcome. An important reason for this listing was the high seabird bycatch in the hake trawl fishery. An estimated 8000 birds are killed annually in this fishery (Albatross Task Force unpublished data). Ross Wanless and Bronwyn Maree were summoned to attend a DWG meeting to defend the estimate used in the SASSI text. They also had to defend the methods employed and the findings against a concerted attack from UCT fishery stock modellers, who are consultants to the government and to industry. The advice to be sent to the Minister will recommend no formal changes to the current seabird permit conditions for this fishery, but will recommend that fishery observers start to collect seabird incidental mortality data to compliment the ATF work.

Another component of the Seabird Division’s work is the Global Seabird Programme, for which Ross Wanless is responsible. Some of the work during the past quarter has included the following:

· This period was dominated by three events – the World Seabird Conference in Canada, the SOS Festival, and the IOTC meeting in Seychelles.

· In September Bronwyn Maree, Lisa Mansfield and Ross Wanless travelled to Canada to attend the GSP Steering Committee meeting and 1st World Seabird Conference. Each presented posters on ATF research results (Bronwyn Maree and Lisa Mansfield) and AS@S (Ross Wanless). The three Seabird Division staff members had invaluable time to meet with Ben Sullivan, GSP coordinator, and John Croxall, Chair of the GSP Steering Committee, and dozens of other researchers and seabird conservation practitioners. It was a successful conference and a very positive activity for the Seabird Division staff, and the world-class work done in this division was clearly apparent. The ATF successes were highlighted in the conference high-profile opening address by HRH Prince Charles.

· Ross Wanless helped develop a Level 1 ecological risk assessment for seabirds in the IOTC area during his July visit to Hobart, Tasmania. This was done collaboratively with the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). It was presented at an IOTC meeting in October; BirdLife and ACAP were specifically thanked for the work, and more analyses have been requested. Ross Wanless also helped ACAP to develop a strategy for changing the seabird resolution at IOTC.

· Tim Reid took up his post-doctoral position to undertake the marine IBA work in South Africa at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, UCT, on 2 August. There is good progress on marine IBAs in Reunion, with some work being presented at the WSC.

· A funding bid for regional WIO marine IBA programme has been developed with Ben Lascelles (BirdLife International, Cambridge) and is being evaluated.

· An IBA signboard design was printed and erected in Gansbaai, near Dyer Island. Many thanks to BirdLife Walker Bay for contributing R2K towards this and to Justin Bode for creating and posting the signboard, at no cost.

· Ross Wanless attended the IOTC meeting in Victoria, Seychelles, in October. The seabird risk assessment was presented and, together with ACAP, we made a strong, scientifically supported bid to improve the seabird resolution. Our efforts were somewhat thwarted by the Japanese delegation, but there was meaningful progress in that the opportunities to effect change remain tangible. Ross Wanless will attend the Science Committee meeting in December 2010 in an attempt to further this agenda.

· Ross Wanless engaged actively with ACAP and the GSP’s RFMO team in planning for work in ICCAT. However, it was decided that no-one from ACAP or BirdLife would attend the commission meeting in Paris in November. Ross Wanless has lobbied the BL/ACAP position with the (very sympathetic and competent) South African delegation to the meeting, and will maintain a watching brief on this. There is a possibility that the competent person will be removed from the delegation in favour of politically connected jolly-seekers from DAFF.

· Meidad Goren’s vessel access problems in Richard’s Bay continued, and no sea time was achieved in September (there was also none in August). Meidad Goren then left for two weeks to Israel, a requirement to extend his contract and get a temporary work visa. Upon his return he was barred from participating in the fishing trips as planned, in a churlish response to the Red Listing of Indian Ocean tunas by WWF’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative. No sea time was achieved in October either, an extremely disappointing situation for all. Meidad Goren and Ross Wanless were able to negotiate a temporary return to sea in November.

· Progress on all fronts in Namibia has been somewhat desultory. The programme continues to collect valuable information and conduct experiments at sea. Other initiatives have faltered or moved very slowly, and communications from the ATF Leader is problematic, with a range of excuses offered. Ross Wanless is exploring options to further encourage regular communication with the team.

· Starting on 1 November, Ross Wanless has pooled several funding streams to appoint Christine Moseley as a service provider to the Seabird Division. She will take on management of all African Penguin projects. This is a temporary situation, but Ross Wanless is working towards getting sustainable funding for this position. The immediate impact of Christine Moseley’s position is to free up Ross Wanless’ time; the penguin work was consuming an alarming amount of time, and this move is timeous and a huge relief.

· Penguin flipper band study: this continues to be a problem, primarily because the principle investigator, Shannon Hampton, works in an unpaid, voluntary capacity on this. She has been unable to devote meaningful time to this, and site visits by Seabird Division staff (Ross Wanless and Bronwyn Maree) represent significant time commitments that we can ill afford. Christine Moseley is progressing signing over some components of this to other competent organisations, probably SANCCOB. Shannon Hampton will remain involved as much as she is able to.

· Ross Wanless is assisting with the development of an integrated African Penguin population model by UCT staff, led by Profs Astrid Jarre and Leanne Scott. Ross Wanless continues to provide input as a member of a Task Team formed by MCM, to specifically address further closed areas to fishing around penguin colonies. Christine Moseley is starting to take over some of the responsibilities and project management duties, and both Ross Wanless and Christine Moseley will continue with this project.

· Post-doc work on penguin energetics in collaboration with the Animal Demography Unit and WWF has been finalised and samples sent for analysis; results still awaited. Dr Lorien Pichegru has activated her research under the CVDM project, tracking penguin foraging behaviour and monitoring various key reproductive parameters at St Croix and Bird islands, Port Elizabeth. This is the start of a three year programme.

· Ross Wanless is collaborating with Dr Res Altwegg (SANBI), initially by providing funding (from CVDM project) for a top statistical ecologist to take up a post-doctoral position, to develop penguin demographic models coupled to fishery data (to investigate the effects of fishing on penguins).

· Bronwyn Maree and Christina Moseley are finalising a project in which they have identified potential sites for a new mainland African Penguin colony along the south coast. This was presented at the Biodiversity Management Plan workshop for African Penguins. CVDM funds were used to support two consultants and Christine Moseley to attend this meeting and represent BirdLife South Africa.

· AS@S (atlas of seabirds at sea) website was re-launched in November, and an appreciable volume of data has now been gathered. Tim Reid is taking on some important roles in maintaining momentum for AS@S. The team of experts (a ‘Regional Atlas Committee’) has been appointed to facilitate the rolling out of AS@S. The digitisation of historical data is progressing, and will add a hugely valuable component to AS@S, making it a resource for seabird distributional information of global value. The presentation on AS@S at the World Seabird Conference went well, although it became apparent at the workshop on at-sea databases that there is a fair degree of proprietary concern over seabird atlas data.

· Wetlands International has subcontracted the Seabird Division to produce work for AEWA. The contract starts 15 November, covers one month of paid work over two months and includes time for BirdLife International staff and involvement. A consultant (Andrea Angel) has agreed to undertake much of the work, and a service provider agreement is being drawn up.

· The Seabird Division is partnering with the Plastics Federation and Enviromark for a marine IBA programme, with sponsorship for a post-doctoral student at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute in 2010 to undertake South Africa’s marine IBA work.

· The Seabird Division is partnering with Dr Matthieu Le Corre and Peter Kappes (ECOMAR – University of Reunion) for marine IBA work in the western Indian Ocean. This work is done in close coordination with Ben Lascelles of BirdLife International.

· Martin Taylor has assisted David Allan and BirdLife Port Natal with the monthly waterbird/seabird counts at Durban Harbour.



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