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Albatross conservation

Albatrosses are amongst the most iconic species of the Southern Ocean.
South Georgia is home to globally significant populations of wandering,
black-browed, grey-headed and light-mantled albatrosses. These species
are highly protected at South Georgia, both on land and at sea in our
Marine Protected Area.

The population trends of South Georgia’s albatrosses are closely
monitored at selected sites each year. This annual monitoring is
complemented by archipelago-wide surveys every ten years or so, except
for light-mantled albatrosses, whose dispersed breeding distribution
make them difficult to survey. The most recent archipelago-wide survey
was undertaken during the 2014/15 breeding season. The results of this
survey revealed that the number of wandering albatrosses breeding
annually at South Georgia decreased by 18% (1.8% per year) from 1,553
pairs in 2003/2004 to an estimated 1,278 pairs in 2014/2015. Over the
same period, black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses decreased by 19%
(1.9% per year) and 43% (5% per year), respectively. These represent a
continuation of negative trends at South Georgia since the 1970s, and
are in contrast to some populations elsewhere, which have shown signs of
recent recovery. The main cause has been attributed to incidental
mortality associated with fisheries operating outside of South Georgia’s
maritime zone.

The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI)
has ratified via the United Kingdom (UK) Government, and actively
participates in the work of, the Agreement on the Conservation of
Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). ACAP is a multilateral agreement which
seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels by coordinating international
activity to mitigate known threats to their populations. GSGSSI has also
collaborated with the fishing industry to protect albatross in the
waters around South Georgia. Modern fisheries management techniques have
all but eliminated seabird bycatch in the maritime zone. Vessels fishing
in South Georgia’s maritime zone are required to use a variety of
seabird bycatch mitigation measures aimed at reducing or preventing
bycatch. These include the use of bird-scaring devices and night
setting, the use of which has helped reduce the bycatch of seabirds to
negligible levels. This success has helped support the designation of
the South Georgia toothfish fishery as the highest-scoring Marine
Stewardship Council certified fishery in the world. However, the
extensive at-sea range of albatrosses, extending many thousands of
miles, brings them into contact with other, less well-managed, fisheries.

GSGSSI is now looking to better understand and address these external
threats, and is delighted to be working in conjunction with the Royal
Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to undertake an initial study
that will identify where and when albatrosses are at risk so as to
better target education, conservation and monitoring programmes.

Black-browed albatross

Breeding on inaccessible cliffs and tussock covered slopes, these birds
are generally surveyed by photographing colonies from the sea, and
subsequently counting nesting birds from the digital photographs.
Outside the breeding season the birds spend considerable time foraging
in the productive waters of the Benguela Current, off southern Africa
where they overlap with, and are at risk of being incidentally killed by
a number of long-line and trawl fisheries.

Light-mantled albatross

Unlike the other species of albatross breeding at South Georgia,
breeding light-mantled albatross are dispersed in low numbers around the
entire coastline making it very difficult to monitor their population
trends. Nevertheless, South Georgia is known to host the largest
population of light-mantled albatross in the world. Considered to be the
most southerly of all the albatross species, these birds often forage
close to the Antarctic.

Grey-headed albatross

Often found nesting on high cliffs in mixed groups with black-browed
albatross, grey-headed albatrosses only breed every other year making
their populations particularly vulnerable to ongoing declines. Known to
travel great distances outside of the breeding season, better
understanding of where these birds forage at different stages of their
life-cycle is critical to understanding what fisheries they come into
contact with and where to target conservation efforts.

Wandering albatross

Wandering albatrosses are one of the largest flying birds in the world
and have a wingspan of up to 3.5m. It takes an entire year to raise a
chick. Nesting in small groups on isolated headlands and tussock
islands, the majority of birds breeding at South Georgia are found on
Bird Island and Annenkov Island, with other colonies located in the Bay
of Isles and along the southern coast of the archipelago. Surveying
these long-lived species requires good local knowledge and great care to
avoid disturbing the birds or the habitat in which they nest.

Technical Details

Artist: Leigh-Anne Wolfaardt

Printer: Cartor Security Printing

Process: Stochastic lithography

Perforation: 13 ¼ x 13 per 2cms

Stamp size: 38 x 30.6mm

Sheet Layout: 10

Souvenir Sheet size: 164 x 136mm

Release date: 25 June, 2017

Production Co-ordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd

RSPB crest and name © RSPB and reproduced with authorisation of RSPB,
registered trademark owner

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