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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

National recovery plan for Albatrosses and Giant-petrels

Wildlife Scientific Advice, Natural Heritage Division
Environment Australia, October 2001

Note:This publication has been superseded by the National recovery plan for threatened albatrosses and giant petrels 2011—2016


Current species status

Recent taxonomic research has increased the number of albatross species recognised in the world from 14 to 24 (Nunn et al. 1996; Robertson and Nunn 1998). Twenty-two species of albatross occur within the Southern Hemisphere. All species of Southern Hemisphere albatrosses are listed in the appendices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Nineteen species have been recorded within the Australian Fishing Zone, five of which also breed on Australian islands. Four of the 22 species found in the Southern Hemisphere are listed on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) as nationally endangered species, and a further thirteen are listed as nationally vulnerable species. Both of the world's giant-petrel species breed and forage within Australian waters, and both species appear to be suffering declines (Table 1.1). Both giant-petrels are listed in the CMS appendices.

Critical habitat

Most albatrosses and giant-petrels spend more than 95% of their time traversing the world's Southern Oceans in search of prey, and usually only return to land to breed. Nesting typically occurs on small, remote islands scattered throughout the Southern Oceans (see Map 1). The following nesting islands fall under Australian jurisdiction: Macquarie Island (including Bishop and Clerk Islets), Heard and McDonald Islands, Albatross Island, Pedra Branca, the Mewstone and several islands within the Australian Antarctic Territory (Giganteus Island, Hawker Island and the Frazier Islands). These islands constitute the only suitable breeding habitat under Australian jurisdiction and are thus critical to the survival of albatrosses and giant-petrels in Australian waters.

Limiting factors

Albatross and giant-petrel populations are jeopardised by a number of threats, particularly incidental capture during longline fishing operations. This practice was listed as a Key Threatening Process on Schedule 3 of the Endangered Species Protection Act (ESP Act)in 1995, and is therefore listed as a Key Threatening Process under the EPBC Act (which replaced the ESP Act as of 16 July 2000). Accordingly, a Threat Abatement Plan for the Incidental Catch (or By-Catch) of Seabirds During Oceanic Longline Fishing Operations was developed and has been in operation since 1998. A number of other factors may further exacerbate population declines, including (but not restricted to) the following:

These and other potential threats are discussed in this Recovery plan.

Recovery objectives

The overall objective of this recovery plan is:

It should be acknowledged that the overall objective might not be attainable within the five-year life of this plan. Thus, specific objectives to be achieved within the next five years have been set. The specific objectives are to:

  1. Quantify and reduce the threats to the survival of albatrosses and giant-petrels within areas under Australian jurisdiction; and
  2. Quantify and reduce the threats to the reproductive success of albatrosses and giant-petrels breeding within areas under Australian jurisdiction; and
  3. Quantify and reduce the threats to the foraging habitat of albatrosses and giant-petrels within areas under Australian jurisdiction; and
  4. Maintain existing population monitoring programs for albatrosses and giant-petrels breeding on Macquarie Island, Albatross Island, Pedra Branca, the Mewstone, and within the Australian Antarctic Territory, and develop population monitoring programs for other representative breeding populations under Australian jurisdiction; and
  5. Educate fishers and promote public awareness of the threats to albatrosses and giant-petrels; and
  6. Achieve substantial progress towards global conservation of albatrosses and giant-petrels in international conservation and fishing fora; and
  7. Assess and revise the Albatross and Giant-Petrel Recovery Plan as necessary.

Recovery criteria

The Recovery Plan will be deemed successful when all of the following criteria have been met:

  1. incidental by-catch during longline fishing operations is consistent with the criteria specified in the Longline Fishing Threat Abatement Planfor all albatross and giant-petrel species within the AFZ; and
  2. all human induced threats to albatrosses and giant-petrels have been minimised (or eliminated); and
  3. no breeding population within areas under Australian jurisdiction declines due to human activities; and
  4. all albatross and giant-petrel breeding populations within areas under Australian jurisdiction that have declined exhibit a sustained increase in population size.

Recovery actions

The major Recovery Actions needed to satisfy the Recovery Criteria and therefore achieve the Specific Objectives are listed below.

Biodiversity benefits

Many seabird species are affected by the same factors that threaten albatrosses and giant-petrels. Minimising the threats to albatrosses and giant-petrels will therefore also benefit other seabird species that share the same habitat. Protecting the breeding islands of albatrosses and giant-petrels will also benefit many other species inhabiting those islands. The Recovery Team anticipates no negative impacts to non-target native species or ecological communities as a result of the Recovery Plan's implementation.

Estimated cost of recovery

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Total
$1,516,000 $1,505,000 $1,535,000 $1,440,000 $1,445,000 $7,441,000