Archived 2012-2013 topics: Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys): downlist to Near Threatened?

BirdLife Species Factsheet for Black-browed Albatross Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys is currently listed as Endangered under criterion A4bd on the basis of a projected ongoing population decline of more than 50% over three generations (65 years). Around 70% of the global population of Black-browed Albatross breeds in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) in the South Atlantic. Earlier analyses reported that numbers here apparently increased substantially during the 1980s, but declined during 2000-2005 at 0.7% per annum (Huin and Reid 2007). Given the large population here, this decline was a major factor contributing to the overall projected global population decline. However, some colonies surveyed using aerial photography showed a contrasting population trend, with increases of 21-141% during 1986-2005 reported. In 2010, an archipelago-wide survey of Black-browed Albatross was conducted for the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Both the aerial and ground-based surveys conducted in 2010 revealed an increase in the Black-browed Albatross population of at least 4% per annum between 2005 and 2010. This positive trend is supported by demographic data and an additional aerial photographic survey conducted later in the 2010 breeding season (Wolfaardt 2012). It was also concluded that the islands’ Black-browed Albatross population is likely to have increased since the first archipelago-wide ground survey in 2000, and possibly even since the initial ground based surveys were conducted at Beauchêne and Steeple Jason islands in the 1980s. Current estimates for the annual breeding population in the Falkland Islands range between 475,500 and 535,000 breeding pairs. Population trends from Chile (15-20% of the global population) are largely unknown. On South Georgia (Georgias del Sur), which holds c.13% of the global population, only a relatively crude assessment can be made of the overall population trend (using estimates from Poncet et al. 2006 and extrapolating annual declines of 4% since 2006 on Bird lsland), but these suggest a substantial decrease. Incorporating these new data, the global population of Black-browed Albatross appears no longer to be undergoing ongoing declines over three generations since 1980, since increases in the population at the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) outweigh declines elsewhere such as at South Georgia (Georgias del Sur). The trend over a three generation period (65 years) commencing in 1980 is a 246% increase (see attached spreadsheet). While this might appear to qualify the species for Least Concern, there remains a considerable degree of uncertainty over population trends for a significant part of the global population, and this figure is heavily influenced by the extrapolation over 65 years of data from a ten-year period. In addition, high levels of mortality of this species are reported from longline and trawl fisheries in the South Atlantic. For these reasons, precautionarily listing the species as Near Threatened (under criterion A4d), with declines suspected to approach 30% over three generations, may be more appropriate until further data are forthcoming. Additional information on population trends and comments on the proposed downlisting are welcomed. Thalassarche melanophrys trend analysis References Huin, N.; Reid, T. 2007. Census of the Black-browed Albatross population of the Falkland Islands, 2000 and 2005 Poncet, S.; Robertson, G.; Phillips, R. A.; Lawton, K.; Phalan, B.; Trathan, P. N.; Croxall, J. P. 2006. Status and distribution of Wandering, Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses breeding at South Georgia. Polar Biology 29: 772-781. Wolfaardt, A. 2012. An assessment of the population trends and conservation status of Black-browed Albatrosses in the Falkland Islands. Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), July 2012. Available from

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2 Responses to Archived 2012-2013 topics: Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys): downlist to Near Threatened?

  1. Falklands Conservation would look to see the species moved to Near Threatened rather than Least Concern for the precautionary reasons noted.

  2. At its last meeting in April 2013, the ACAP Population and Conservation Status Working Group recognised that there have been substantial recent increases in the populations in the Falklands (Malvinas) (PCSWG1 Doc 14) which accounts for 70% of the world population, and Chile (PCSWG1 Doc 03 Rev 1). However, the WG agreed that although population data alone would suggest listing this species as Least Concern, current levels of bycatch support precautionary listing as Near Threatened under criterion A4.

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