Ocean Wings News
Albatross Encounter Update July 2011
Welcome to the Albatross Encounter® update for July 2011.
We’ve been busier this month with 13 tours operating. Our mild winter finally came to an end towards the end of the month with a huge polar blast from Antarctica bringing the worst snow to the South Island in 16 years. Snow graced the Seaward Kaikoura Mountain range and many of the lower ranges, even dusting the Haumuri Bluffs to the south, but although we had a number of flurries in the township, it wasn’t quite cold enough to settle.
Species of interest this month include a white morph, black-billed gulls, Campbell Island albatross, fairy prions and Antarctic fulmar. To see what was sighted this month go to our sightings page.
For the second month in a row, a southern giant petrel in a “white morph” phase was sighted. This bird was sighted over several days and certainly showed aggression to, not only other giant petrels, but also some of the great albatross and was seen biting the tail of a wanderer on more than one occasion. We did also hear reports from a commercial fisherman of 2 white morphs together, but unfortunately we were unable to locate them.
The numbers of Antarctic fulmars has been on the increase this month. These birds breed on islands around the Antarctic Peninsula and move northwards to avoid the pack ice during the winter. They are often seen here in Kaikoura during the winter months either solitary or in small groups of up to 6 birds. Like giant petrels, these birds are able to spit foul smelling oil at predators when threatened. Their diet comprises of krill, squid and small fish and is predominantly obtained by surface feeding.
This month on 2 separate occasions Gary has had to assist birds affected by the fishing industry. The first occurrence was a northern giant petrel which had a 2m trace hanging from its beak. Gary was somehow able to get the bird onboard and cut the monofilament to at least try and help it survive. Clearly the bird was not amused, but hopefully Gary’s actions will prevent it from entanglement and it may well have a chance of survival.
The second occasion was more devastating this time involving a wandering albatross. Reports came in of sightings of a wandering albatross sitting on the water with a broken wing. After several unsuccessful attempts to capture the bird by Whale Watch, Gary took to the water in Encounter II with several helpers. The team was successfully able to catch the wanderer and took it back to South Bay before handing it over to the Department of Conservation. Sadly the outlook for this bird was bleak with traumatic injuries to its wing with open fractures that were assumed to have been caused by flying into a trawl warp. Despite the sad outcome, the wanderer was lucky to have ventured into Kaikoura waters where someone was on hand to help instead of her floating out at sea to slowly perish. A sad day for the albatross world!!
Our full day pelagic trip scheduled for Saturday 30th July was rescheduled to the Sunday, due to poor weather. Luckily on the Sunday the wind had died down enabling the tour to go ahead. We took out our large dolphin boat, Lissodelphis, due to the significant swell, which fortunately diminished throughout the day. Large amounts of birds were sighted with a total of 20 bird species, including 7 species of albatross. Species of interest included grey- faced petrel, southern giant petrels, sooty shearwater, black-billed gulls, Antarctic fulmar and fairy prions. The trip was a huge success, great to see old faces and some new ones and people are keen for another trip to be scheduled during our spring. At this stage dates are yet to be confirmed, but we do have a mailing list. If you are not already on the mailing list and would like to be kept updated on forthcoming trips then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You may be aware that back in November 2009, the partners in Encounter Kaikoura formed a charitable trust called the Encounter Foundation. One of the projects the Foundation has sponsored, is the Mitigation Mentor Programme. Following is an update
Sponsor update - Mitigation Mentor Programme
Encounter Foundation support is helping the Southern Seabird Solutions international mitigation mentor programme get off the ground. The programme will work with fishers and inventors to develop practical techniques to prevent seabirds being hurt or killed in the course of fishing.
The Trust (Southern Seabirds) appointed Tasmania-based environmental consultant Barry Baker as the programme’s mentor last year, and he has established a referral group of experts to provide feedback and advice on ideas with potential. Barry says, "It’s about nurturing good ideas and bringing them to fruition. It’s about encouraging people to come forward with ideas that with a bit of support may help to radically reduce the bycatch of seabirds in fisheries,” he says.
Fishing, conservation, research and business development expertise is represented on the referral group. The members are:
- John Cleal, Deepwater Group, New Zealand.
- Dave Kellian, tuna longliner and inventor, New Zealand.
- Phill Ashworth, Amerro Engineering, Australia.
- Dave Kreutz, Oceanwatch, Australia.
- Graham Robertson, Australian Antarctic Division, Australia.
- Barrie Rose, bycatch mitigation consultant, South Africa.
- Marco Favero – Chair, ACAP Advisory Committee; Head of Vertebrate Research Group at the National University of Mar del Plata (Argentina).
- Eric Gilman – fisheries research scientist, Hawaii Pacific University.
- Svein Lokkeborg – fisheries research scientist, Institute of Marine Research, Norway.
- Ed Melvin – Washington Sea Grant, University of Washington, USA.
Encounter Foundation is delighted to be supporting this work, which will make a real difference to the conservation of seabirds. You can read more about the international mitigation mentor programme at www.southernseabirds.org
The International Mitigation Mentoring Programme is sponsored by Sealord, WWF, Sanford, Encounter Foundation and Maersk Line. Southern Seabird Solutions Trust is financially supported by the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council and the Department of Conservation.
So, that’s all our news for now, till next month happy birding!
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