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Recovery Strategy for the Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) and Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) in Canada (Proposed)

Executive Summary

The Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) and the Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) are listed as threatened in Canada under the Species at Risk Act. These species have similar geographic distributions in Canadian waters, and share threats in marine habitats throughout their range. This recovery strategy takes a multi-species approach to their recovery.

The Short-tailed Albatross breeds on islands near the coast of Japan, with more than 85 percent of the population nesting on one island, an active volcano. Historically, Short-tailed Albatrosses were estimated to number in the millions but due to feather hunting pressure, the population was reduced to less than an estimated 50 individuals in the 1930s. Hunting no longer occurs, and conservation actions on the nesting island have resulted in improved breeding success. Today, the population of Short-tailed Albatrosses is estimated at 2,130 individuals and the population is increasing at 6-8 percent per year. Prior to the species' decline, these birds were once common visitors to the coast of British Columbia. Since 1996, 34 Short-tailed Albatrosses have been observed in or within 50 km of Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Pink-footed Shearwater is known to breed on only three islands in Chile. On their colonies, major threats include introduced predators and an illegal harvest of chicks. Pink-footed Shearwaters have been observed in Canadian waters from late March through late October.

Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters observed in Canada have similar distributions over the continental shelf and upper slope waters off the west coast. Canadian threats to both species are similar and include potential interactions with commercial longline or gillnet fisheries, oil pollution, the ingestion of plastics, and the bioaccumulation of heavy metals and other pollutants. The potential interactions between these species and the commercial fishing industry include incidental take during fishing, and injury or entanglement in discarded nets and lines. Offshore oil and gas activities pose a potential threat, and planned offshore wind farms may degrade or prevent access to certain foraging locations. Climate change poses a potential threat.

The recovery goal is to support and augment international efforts to restore and increase populations of Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters. Recovery objectives for the species in Canada are to: minimize or remove threats under Canadian jurisdiction; identify and conserve Canadian marine habitats of importance; promote, support and augment international initiatives contributing to the recovery throughout their range; develop and implement educational activities that support recovery in Canada; and address knowledge gaps concerning threats and Short-tailed Albatross and Pink-footed Shearwater ecology in Canada.

Critical habitats for these species in Canada have not been identified. A schedule of studies is given to determine whether the concept of critical habitat applies to these species in Canadian waters, and if so, how to identify it. Until the applicability of critical habitat to these species is assessed, this represents a significant knowledge gap. Other knowledge gaps include the percentage of the total population that occurs in Canada, the residency period in Canada, the potential overlap with commercial fisheries, the potential impact of future oil and windfarm development, and a global population estimate for the number of breeding Pink-footed Shearwaters. An action plan will be completed by July 2009.