WCS Argentina

Albatrosses and Petrels

Black-browed albatrosses and southern giant petrels are two large seabirds with wingspans of over 81 inches (200 cm) that forage mostly in pelagic environments along the wide Argentine continental shelf. The largest breeding colony of black-browed albatrosses is found on Steeple Jason on the Falkland/Malvinas islands, where over 180,000 breeding pairs gather each year. This species is common in the South West Atlantic where it interacts with commercial fisheries. Male and female southern giant petrels differ in their feeding strategies; while males are primarily scavengers gathering in large numbers to feed on carcasses of marine mammals and penguins found floating at sea or washed up on shore, females forage on squid, crustaceans and fish throughout the continental shelf. Awkward on land, giant petrels are superb fliers, often following ships seeking to scavenge discarded fish waste.

Conservation Approach

Working with the “Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas yTécnicas (CONICET)” of Argentina and local non-governmental organizations, we develop scientific data to support conservation actions, and work with local governments and the fishing industry to change fishing practices at sea to protect this species. We provide data and assistance to the government of the province of Chubut and the National Parks Service of Argentina for the development of protected area management planning. We also contribute data to national and international initiatives to help identify priority areas for conservation and develop zoning schemes along the continental shelf. We participate in and provide technical assistance for working groups under the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels, an international agreement ratified by the Argentine government. Our efforts seek to build a strong local constituency for the conservation of these species and marine environments

Goals

To ensure that populations that breed and feed in the Patagonian sea remain strong and healthy.

Activities

Conservation work at breeding sites include the monitoring of breeding numbers, the development of recommendations to minimize human disturbance on nesting birds, and the assessment of  the impact of introduced rats on southern giant petrels breeding at the Isla de los Estados protected area. Activities also include monitoring of interactions with commercial fisheries, and assistance with the implementation of fishing practices that reduce negative impact on birds and improve fishing operations, thus generating a win-win result. Analysis of the overlap between marine areas used by black-browed albatrosses and southern giant petrels and the location of fishing effort in the Patagonian Shelf will allow the identification of areas of high risk for these seabirds.

Threats

Mortality in fishing gear in both the black-browed albatross and southern giant petrel is the prime concern. Disturbance of breeding colonies and plastic pollution are also serious threats to southern giant petrels.

Accomplishments

WCS researchers provided technical assistance that was instrumental in the development of the “Argentine National Action Plan to Reduce Fisheries Related Seabird Mortality”. We also played a major part in making the use of mitigation measures mandatory for all long-liners fishing within the country’s Economic Exclusive Zone. Working with partner organizations we helped develop a technique using inexpensive traffic cones that trail on the surface behind trawlers keeping albatrosses clear from towlines. The method has proved effective at reducing entanglement and mortality of seabirds in this fishery. WCS played a key role in the creation of the “Parque Marino Patagonia Austral” in Golfo San Jorge, by the Argentine Congress in 2008. The park provides protection for over 80% of the total breeding population of the southern giant petrel on the coast of Patagonia as well as major breeding populations of other seabirds.

Contact

WCS Argentina
Amenabar 1595 piso 2 oficina 19, C1426AKC CABA

Key Staff

Flavio Quintana
Coastal Argentina Program Seabirds
Adrian Schiavini
Coastal Argentina Program Seabirds
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