Archived 2016 topics: Flesh-footed Shearwater (Ardenna carneipes): uplist from Least Concern to Near Threatened?

BirdLife species factsheet for Flesh-footed Shearwater:

Flesh-footed Shearwater breeds on St Paul Island (French Southern Territories), Lord Howe Island (Australia), islands off south-west mainland Australia, South Australia (at two isolated colonies), and islands off North and South Islands (New Zealand). The global population was estimated to number > c.650,000 individuals (Brooke 2004), but this has been recently revised following the identification of significant errors in the historical literature, as well as recent population surveys. Overall, the current global population is substantially smaller than previously thought, comprising a maximum of 74,000 breeding pairs (Lavers 2015).

Despite the poor historical records and the current lack of data across all populations to assess the global population, there is now enough evidence to confirm that: i) the Area of Occupancy has decreased following the abandonment of a number of historical breeding colonies on islands in New Zealand and Australia (Baker et al. 2010; Waugh et al. 2014; Lavers 2015), ii) its population has been strongly affected by the fisheries operating in Australia (Baker and Wise 2005; Tuck et al. 2003; Tuck and Wilcox 2008) and it is ranked in the top five most at-risk seabirds from fisheries bycatch in New Zealand (Richard and Abraham 2014), iii) the population on Lord Howe and Sandy Island (Australia) and Lady Alice Island (New Zealand) is declining (Waugh et al. 2014, Reid et al. 2013, Barbraud et al. 2014).

In Australia, the Lord Howe island population was previously estimated at c.20,000-40,000 breeding pairs in 1978 (Fullagar and Disney 1981) and 17,462 breeding pairs in 2003 (Priddel et al. 2006). More recently, the population was estimated to be 16,267 pairs in 2009, representing a decline in the number of pairs since 2003 of 6.8% (approx. 1.3% per annum; Reid et al. 2013). Also, Sandy Island, where historical surveys were corrected to be 5011 pairs in 1976, were 3400 pairs in 2012 (Lavers 2015). In New Zealand, Robertson and Bell (1984) estimated the Flesh-footed Shearwater breeding population at 50,000-100,000 pairs in 1983 while Taylor (2000) considered the population to be somewhat smaller at 25,000-50,000 pairs in 2000. Recent surveys suggest the population is closer to 10,000-15,000 pairs (Baker et al. 2010; Waugh et al. 2014; Lavers 2015).

Based on the above evidence and spite of the limited population data available, it seems reasonable to suspect that the population has declined by at least 20-30% over three generations (55 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 18.3 years) and thus the species would qualify to be listed as Near Threatened under criteria A2bcde+3bcde+4bcde.

Any comments on the proposed uplisting are welcome.


Baker, G.B. and Wise, B.S. 2005. The impact of pelagic longline fishing on the Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes in Eastern Australia. Biological Conservation 126: 306-316.

Baker, B., Hedley, G., Cunningham, R., 2010. Data collection of demographic, distributional, and trophic information on the Flesh-footed Shearwater to allow estimation of effects of fishing on population viability: 2009-10 field season. Latitude42 Environmental Consultants, Hobart.

Barbraud, C., Booth, A., Taylor, G.A., Waugh, S.M., 2014. Survivorship in Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes at two sites in northern New Zealand. Marine Ornithology 42, 91-97.

Brooke, M. de L. 2004. Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Fullagar, P.J. and Disney, H.J. 1981. Studies on the Fleshy-footed Shearwaters, Puffinus carneipes. Occasional Reports of the Australian Museum 1, 31-32.

Lavers, J.L. 2015. Population status and threats to Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) in South and Western Australia. ICES Journal of Marine Science 72, 316-327.

Priddel, D., Carlile, N., Fullagar, P., Hutton, I. and O’Neill, L. 2006. Decline in the distribution and abundance of Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) on Lord Howe Island, Australia. Biological Conservation 128, 412-424.

Reid, T., Hindell, M., Lavers, J.L. and Wilcox, C. 2013. Re-examining mortality sources and population trends in a declining seabird: using Bayesian methods to incorporate existing information and new data. PLoS ONE 8: e58230.

Richard, Y and Abraham, E.R. (2014). Assessment of the risk of commercial fisheries to New Zealand seabirds, 2006–07 to 2012–13. Draft aquatic environment and biodiversity report (held by Ministry for Primary Industries, Wellington).

Robertson, C. J. R., and B. D. Bell. 1984.”Seabird status and conservation in the New Zealand region.” Status and conservation of the world’s seabirds. Croxall, JP, Evans, PGH & Schreiber, RW (eds), ICBP Technical Publication 2: 573-586.

Taylor, G.A. 2000. Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand part B: non-threatened seabirds. in Threatened species occasional publication no. 17 (Department of Conservation, Wellington).

Tuck, G.N.N., Polacheck, T. and Bulman, C.M.M., 2003. Spatio-temporal trends of longline fishing effort in the Southern Ocean and implications for seabird bycatch. Biological Conservation 114: 1-27.

Tuck, G.N. and Wilcox, C. 2008. Assessing the potential impacts of fishing on the Lord Howe Island population of Flesh-footed Shearwaters. Australian Fisheries Management Authority and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, 89 pp.

Waugh, S.M., Hutzler, I., Crotty, E. and Blyth, R. 2014. Do Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) use leaves as “home insulation”? Notornis 61: 205-207.





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4 Responses to Archived 2016 topics: Flesh-footed Shearwater (Ardenna carneipes): uplist from Least Concern to Near Threatened?

  1. Graeme Taylor says:

    I am happy with this reassessment. Hopefully within the next four years we will have more data from our work here in New Zealand to confirm whether the observed declines are continuing at the study colonies. Better still would be actual reductions in fisheries bycatch rates leading to improvements in the breeding populations.

  2. Alan Tennyson says:

    I think the reference “Waugh et al. 2014” should be “Waugh et al. 2013”, which is:

    Waugh, S.M.; Tennyson, A.J.D.; Taylor, G.A.; Wilson, K.-J. 2013. Population sizes of shearwaters (Puffinus spp.) breeding in New Zealand, with recommendations for monitoring. Tuhinga – Records of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 24: 159-204.

  3. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to uplist Ardenna carneipes to Near Threatened under criteria A2bcde+3bcde+4bcde.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  4. Susan Waugh says:

    In NZ, the species seems to be contracting in range, and surveys on previously studied sites are underway in NZ to look at population trends.
    The paragraphh below needs to be revised: “In New Zealand, Robertson and Bell (1984) estimated the Flesh-footed Shearwater breeding population at 50,000-100,000 pairs in 1983 while Taylor (2000) considered the population to be somewhat smaller at 25,000-50,000 pairs in 2000. Recent surveys suggest the population is closer to 10,000-15,000 pairs (Baker et al. 2010; Waugh et al. 2014; Lavers 2015)”.

    Citing the pre 2010 literature for NZ population estimates and changes thereafter is not robust, as we set out in our 2013 review – this is due to the qualitative nature of most earlier surveys, which are included in the Robertson and Bell and Taylor reviews. It would be useful to look at this 2013 paper in detail to see which early assessments provide benchmark datasets to compare with. We provided a detailed assessment of where these could be used to make a trend estimation (ie at virtually none of the sites, exception being sites surveyed since 2006 e.g. Lady Alice, and Ohinau). Other surveys underway at present (2016) will provide the comparative data to enable further estimation of trend for these and other major centres of population for the NZ populations.

    The species warrants uplisting to Near Threatened, on the basis of the combined set of demographic and population information, most of which is unfavourable, although with high uncertainty associated with most estimates, and the detailed information about threats to the population that are quantified through fisheries observer work .

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