The Shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) is listed as Vulnerable under the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995.
The Shy albatross is unique to Tasmania, breeding exclusively on three offshore islands: Albatross Island in the north and Pedra Branca and the Mewstone in the south. The total population is estimated to be around 15 000 annual breeding pairs.
Why are so many albatross threatened?
Albatrosses are one of the most threatened groups of seabirds. Sixteen of the 22 currently recognised species of albatross are considered threatened under International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria.
The biggest threat facing modern day albatross populations is the accidental killing - or bycatch - on fishing operations, particularly commercial longline and trawl fisheries. This effect of this mortality upon a species or population is often exacerbated by one or more other processes, including marine pollution and plastic ingestion, habitat loss, disease, feral species and climate change.
Albatross are very slow to mature (some species take up to ten years before breeding) and they have a very low reproductive output of a single egg every one or two years, depending upon species. This means that even a slight increase in mortality may have disastrous consequences for the survival of a population.
What is being done?
Shy albatross populations have been studied since the 1980's. These programs monitor population trends and study key aspects of the biology and ecology of the species to better understand which threatening processes are driving observed population changes and to identify appropriate conservation strategies.
Currently, we are working with fishers and managers to identify which fisheries pose the greatest risk to shy albatross and to reduce rates of bycatch with improved mitigation measures. Our research is also focused on understanding how shy albatross will be impacted by climate change in the short and long-term. We aim to use this knowledge to identify practical on-ground options that will help buffer the species against negative effects.