The shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta), a species both endemic and endangered, finds its sole breeding grounds on three of Tasmania's offshore islands.
These remarkable birds are the focus of a dedicated conservation effort by the Marine Conservation Program (MCP) that has been ongoing for more than 30 years.
MCP monitors the population trends of the shy albatross, relying on data collected annually from all three breeding sites.
Given the remote location of these islands, monitoring involves a combination of aerial and on-site visits. Two breeding sites are photographed from a helicopter, with the birds in the photographs meticulously counted, while one site is visited in person.
MCP recently went on site to count eggs, as eggs are laid in September and hatch in December. Understanding the number of eggs laid helps MCP estimate population size and inform species management. It's also a significant step towards fulfilling Australia's obligations to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).
The need for such a comprehensive monitoring program arose due to a dramatic decline in population, largely attributed to international long-line fishing operations in shy albatross foraging areas.
Although the threat from fishing operations persists, other emerging and ongoing dangers include climate change, disease, and the potential for offshore developments. In response to these multifaceted challenges, MCP also actively supports novel research focused on better understanding and managing this threatened species.
Current collaborations include the CRAGS project with CSIRO, Milan Sojitra's PhD on “Quantifying and predicting the effects of extreme weather events on terrestrially-breeding seabird and marine mammals" and Demelza Wall's PhD on “Discovering the role of rare, endangered and culturally important marine predators in the Tasman Fracture Marine Park."
You can learn more about the shy albatross conservation efforts and their important role in Tasmania by visiting the ACAP website.
Courting shy albatross