This discussion was first published as part of the 2016 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding its status was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of this species as part of the 2018 Red List update this post remains open and the date of posting has been updated.
BirdLife species factsheet for Amsterdam Albatross:
Amsterdam Albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis breeds only on Amsterdam Island (French Southern Territories) in the southern Indian Ocean. Since 1994 it has been listed as Critically Endangered under criteria (B2ab(v); C2a(ii)), since it was estimated to have an extremely small population, with breeding confined to a tiny area on one island, and continuing declines projected owing to diseases causing chick mortality. However, the population has been steadily increasing since at least 1984, when the first census was carried out. In 2007, the total population was estimated at 167 individuals (Rivalan et al. 2010), 86 of which were adults. The breeding population has reached 46 pairs in 2014 (unpublished CNRS Chizé data from 2014 submitted to ACAP). On average, adult survival is just over 97%, the highest ever found for an albatross (Cuthbert et al. 2004, Rivalan et al. 2010). Juvenile survival of up to 70% is also very high compared to other albatross species and this in part may explain the gradual growth of this population over the 1980s and 1990s (Weimerskirch et al. 1997). The reported breeding success of 61-70% is similar to values reported for other Diomedea species (Weimerskirch et al. 1997).
A cause for concern, however, is a recent decline in breeding success in D. amsterdamensisthat was paralleled with the continuous decrease since 1992 of the Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross population (Thalassarche carteri) on Amsterdam Island (Weimerskirch 2004). The decrease of breeding success in T. carteri has led to a rapid decrease in population size in some colonies where avian cholera (Pasteurella multocida) killed mainly chicks, but also adults. The death of 66% of D. amsterdamensis chicks in 2000 and 74% in 2001 has not yet been attributed to an outbreak of avian cholera in this species (Weimerskirch 2004), however both avian cholera and Erysipelas bacterium (Erisipelothrix rhusiopathidae) were detected in D. amsterdamensis chicks and four other seabird species screened on Amsterdam Island in 2011-2012 (Jaeger et al. 2013). In addition, tuna longline fishing operates in the waters around Amsterdam Island, so bycatch may present a further threat (Rivalan et al. 2010).
Nevertheless, given c.30 years of data showing a steady population increase (and no data from before this period), and the fact that projected continuing declines have not yet materialised, the species appears to no longer qualify as Critically Endangered under criteria B2ab and C2a (both require a “continuing decline”). However, Amsterdam Albatross would qualify as Endangered under criterion D (total population numbering fewer than 250 mature individuals) since the population has numbered >50 mature individuals for at least five years.
Any comments on the proposed downlisting are welcome.
Cuthbert, R., Sommer, E., Ryan, P., Cooper, J., and Hilton, G. 2004. Demography and conservation of the Tristan albatross Diomedea [exulans] dabbenena. Biological Conservation 117: 471-481
Jaeger, A., Bastien, M., Lebarbenchon, C., Tortosa, P., Thiebot, J.-B., Marteau, C., and Weimerskirch, H. 2013. Molecular detection of seven infectious agents in seabirds of Amsterdam Island. PCSWG1 Doc 10. Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. First meeting of the Population and Conservation Status Working Group. La Rochelle, France, 29-30 April. http://www.acap.aq/index.php/en/working-groups/doc_download/2018-pcswg1-doc-10-molecular-detection-of-seven-infectious-agents-in-seabirds-of-amsterdam-island
Rivalan, P., Barbraud, C., Inchausti, P., and Weimerskirch, H. 2010. Combined impacts of longline fisheries and climate on the persistence of the Amsterdam Albatross Diomedia amsterdamensis. Ibis 152: 6-18.
Weimerskirch, H., Brothers, N., and Jouventin, P. 1997. Population dynamics of wandering albatross Diomedea exulans and Amsterdam albatross D. amsterdamensis in the Indian Ocean and their relationships with long-line fisheries: Conservation implications. Biological Conservation 79: 257-270.
Weimerskirch, H. 2004. Diseases threaten Southern Ocean albatrosses. Polar Biology 27: 374-379.