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


2. Recovery

The recovery of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater cannot be accomplished by Canadian efforts alone. Both species are listed as threatened in Canada due to the limited number of breeding sites and low population levels that exist outside Canada. Short-tailed Albatrosses breed in Japan and, during the nesting season, have an extensive marine range in the North Pacific. Pink-footed Shearwaters breed in Chile and range along the coasts of South and Central America during the breeding season. Both species also move seasonally between international, US and Canadian territorial waters. Both the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater face significant threats on the breeding grounds that cannot be addressed in Canada, but the intent of this strategy is to support international efforts to restore and increase populations by reducing potential mortalities while the birds are in Canadian territory. The need for international cooperation is therefore considered essential to the successful recovery of these species.

In addressing recovery of three species of whales in Pacific Canadian waters, Gregr et al. (2005) stated:

“…an effective recovery strategy will consider the long time scales associated with the longevity of these pelagic vertebrates, and the relatively slow response of their associated life history parameters to change. It would address imminent threats and immediate conservation concerns that affect these species and recognize that marine habitats are dynamic, at both short and long time scales, and that physical oceanographic processes that contribute to the creation of habitat are largely beyond human control. The recovery strategy should therefore focus on human actions and activities that can be directly managed”.

These comments are also relevant to the recovery of both the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater.

2.1 Recovery Feasibility

Recovery of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater is biologically and technically feasible. Recovery for both species in Canadian waters is inextricably connected with what occurs on their breeding grounds, which are outside of Canada's jurisdiction.

In determining overall, range-wide feasibility, the four criteria outlined in the draft federal “Policy on the Feasibility of Recovery” (Environment Canada, 2005) were considered. Individuals capable of reproduction are available to increase the population growth rates. There is sufficient marine habitat to support both species in Canada, and although the low number of breeding colonies currently being used in their respective nesting locations is a concern for both species, most marine birds have evolved as island-nesters and thus, this habitat limitation is not a threat per se. The significant threats to these species, such as current threats to the breeding habitat, incidental take, entanglement, and oil pollution can be avoided or mitigated. The threat of ingestion of plastics and other pollutants may be difficult to address, but the severity of these threats most likely do not compromise recovery. The necessary recovery techniques do exist and are demonstrated to be effective.

2.2 Recovery Goal

The recovery goal of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater recovery strategy is to support and augment international efforts to restore and increase populations.

Rationale:

The Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters reported in Canadian waters belong to populations that move seasonally from their breeding colonies in Japan and Chile, respectively, to their non-breeding foraging areas in the North Pacific. In both cases, the COSEWIC status in Canada is in part determined by the limited number of breeding locations and by threats on the breeding grounds. Therefore, the Canadian goal is to support international efforts to conserve these two species. Additionally, the COSEWIC status of the Short-tailed Albatross is partially determined by the low number of individuals found in Canada (less than 1000). The population size and trend in Canadian waters depends on the global recovery; however, mortality of birds in Canadian waters could in turn have some impact on global recovery.

2.3 Population and Distribution Objectives

The population and distribution objectives for the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater are:

  • To maintain their current Canadian distribution; and
  • To maintain, and to increase if possible, the seasonal populations that occupy Canadian waters.

If international efforts are successful on the breeding grounds of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater, and if threat mitigation is successful (internationally and in Canada), then the populations utilizing Canadian territorial waters are expected to increase. If on the other hand, threat mitigation is unsuccessful elsewhere, the populations utilizing Canadian waters may remain constant or decrease despite our best efforts at reducing threats within our own jurisdiction.

Canadian recovery actions for the Short-tailed Albatross will support and augment international efforts, notably the joint U.S.-Japan Short-tailed Albatross Draft Recovery Strategy (USFWS 2005). The following breeding population objectives (and criteria) are from that document. To be considered for down-listing in the U.S. (from Endangered to Threatened) the draft strategy recommends that the following conditions should be met: a minimum breeding population of 750 pairs, a 3-year running average population growth rate of ≥ 6 percent for ≥ 7 years and at least three successful colonies with more than 5 breeding pairs, of which at least two are on non-volcanic islands. To de-list the species entirely in the U.S., the breeding population must reach a minimum of 1,000 pairs, a 3-year running average population growth rate of ≥ 6 percent for ≥ 7 years, at least 250 pairs on at least two non-volcanic islands, and at least 10 percent (or ≥ 25 pairs) on islands other than the Senkaku Islands.

The Canadian goals and objectives support and augment the recommended measures for international conservation. For the conservation of the Pink-footed Shearwater, BirdLife International suggests five measures: 1) remove introduced mammals from the colonies; (2) determine the distribution of birds on the Juan Fernández archipelago; 3) replant native flora to decrease soil erosion; 4) enforce grazing restrictions on national park lands; and 5) assess the threats from the fishing industry (BirdLife International 2005). The Pink-footed Shearwater NACAP (CEC 2005) provides guidance for the development of the goals and objectives, which are supported by this recovery strategy. The NACAP suggests five measures: 1) evaluate the conservation status of the Pink-footed Shearwater at the North American continental level; 2) clarify threats on the wintering grounds; 3) build capacity for research and at-sea monitoring in Mexico; 4) develop an awareness program for the species throughout its North American range; and 5) catalyze conservation actions.

2.4 Recovery Objectives

Implementing the following recovery objectives will enable the conditions necessary to achieving the recovery strategy's population and distribution objectives (Section 2.3).

Objective 1: Threat Reduction and Understanding.

Minimize or remove threats to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters under Canadian jurisdiction (on-going).

Objective 2: Habitat Identification and Conservation.

Identify and conserve marine habitats of importance to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canada (2012).

Objective 3: International Initiatives.

Promote, support and augment international initiatives contributing to the recovery of Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters throughout their range (on-going).

Objective 4: Public awareness.

Develop and implement educational activities that support the recovery of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater in Canada (2012).

Objective 5: Addressing knowledge gaps.

Identify and understand threats to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canadian waters. Support research and monitoring that will fill knowledge gaps concerning the ecology of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater in Canada (2012).

2.5 Approaches Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives

2.5.1 Narrative to support recovery planning table

The general approach taken in the Recovery Planning Table (Table 3) is to address the global status of the two species by focusing on actions that can be taken in Canada, while also supporting international initiatives to recover the species. Approaches to address the threats of bycatch and entanglement, oil spills, chronic oil pollution, and plastic pollution in Canadian waters are to varying degrees based on research, because the current state of knowledge about threats to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canada is poor. Much more information (and synthesis) is needed to guide recovery activities. The current state of knowledge about the basic biological, and habitat requirements of these two species in Canada is relatively poor, and a better understanding is required for effective recovery efforts. Lack of full knowledge or understanding of these threats and ecological requirements should not preclude proactive work to reduce known risks to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters, and reduction of current threats is a primary focus of this strategy.

As threats are discovered, identified or better understood it may be necessary to develop or refine recovery activities to mitigate them. Many mitigation activities, including stewardship, will be developed based on the outcomes of research and inventory, threats reduction, and communication and extension activities identified in the above recovery objectives.  

Canada has the opportunity to play a role in the recovery and conservation of Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters throughout their range. A variety of Canadian organizations and agencies can influence activities in other countries, ultimately contributing to improvements in the overall conservation status of the species. While the broad strategies in the recovery planning table focus on actions that can be taken in Canada, and threats in other countries and on the breeding grounds are not discussed in detail, participation in and support of international efforts will be key to the recovery of these species (see USFWS 2005, CEC 2005, BirdLife International 2005).

2.5.2 Recovery planning

Table 3. Recovery Planning Table.
PriorityThreats addressedBroad strategy to address threatRecommended approaches to meet recovery objectives
Objective 1: Threat Reduction. Minimize or remove threats to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters under Canadian jurisdiction.
Urgent

Bycatch and entanglement from interactions with commercial fisheries

Oil spills, chronic oil pollution, plastics and other pollutants

Marine industrial development: oil exploration and wind farms

Stewardship and/or regulation

a) Implement and/or develop mitigation measures to minimize human-induced mortality

b) Utilize stewardship programs developed under Objective 5 to engage stakeholders in the implementation of mitigation measures

c) Assess potential for impacts to these species and/or their habitats during Environmental Impact Assessments

Objective 2: Habitat Identification and Conservation. Identify and conserve habitat of importance to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canadian waters.
Necessary

Bycatch and entanglement from interactions with commercial fisheries

Oil spills, chronic oil pollution, plastics and other pollutants

Marine industrial development: oil exploration and wind farms

Climate change

Habitat protection

a) Undertake research to identify habitat use by Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canada

b) Assess the distribution and abundance of the prey of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater (and/or develop oceanographic proxies for albatross and shearwater prey that can be assessed using existing sampling programs and/or by remote sensing)

c) Assess and evaluate tools for marine habitat identification and conservation

d) Assess potential for impacts to these species and/or their habitats during Environmental Impact Assessments

Objective 3: International Initiatives. Promote, support and augment international initiatives contributing to the recovery of Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters throughout their range.
Necessary

Threats on the breeding grounds

Bycatch and entanglement from interactions with commercial fisheries

Oil spills, chronic oil pollution, plastics and other pollutants

Marine industrial development: oil exploration and wind farms

International initiatives and collaboration

a) Investigate options for Canadian participation in and promotion of international agreements and conventions to promote protection and recovery of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater  (e.g., the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels)

b) Collaborate with US agencies, other range nations, and international bodies, on Short-tailed Albatross and Pink-footed Shearwater conservation initiatives (e.g., working with Chile, through the Canada-Chile Agreement on Environmental Cooperation to find solutions to problems at the breeding colonies and adjacent foraging areas)

Objective 4: Public Awareness. Develop and implement education activities that support the recovery of Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canada
Necessary

Bycatch and entanglement from interactions with commercial fisheries

Oil spills, chronic oil pollution, plastics and other pollutants

Marine industrial development: oil exploration and wind farms

Education and compliance promotion

a) Develop programs and initiatives to educate and train stakeholders and the general public about the conservation needs of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater, and of their role in the conservation of the two species

b) Develop tools (e.g., brochures, identification cards, etc.) to explain to fishers and vessel operators (in BC and elsewhere) the conservation issues the two species face and to aid in identification of the species as a means to get stakeholders to follow best management practices to avoid catching birds on fishing gear or fouling birds with petroleum releases

Objective 5: Addressing Knowledge Gaps. Identify and understand threats to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canadian waters. Support research and monitoring that will fill knowledge gaps relevant to the ecology of the two species in Canadian waters.
NecessaryBycatch and entanglement from interactions with commercial fisheriesResearcha) Synthesize and evaluate existing data on commercial fishing activities known to, or having the potential to, impact survival and recovery
Oil spills, chronic oil pollution, plastics and other pollutants b) Assess the level of threat to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters from marine pollution, and identify ways Canada can reduce these

Marine industrial development: oil exploration and wind farms

Climate change

 

c) Identify and evaluate other activities that may pose a threat to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters (e.g., offshore oil and gas exploration and development)

d) Synthesize existing knowledge from research and monitoring activities undertaken regarding Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters

e) Support research on basic knowledge gaps identified from (d) including foraging ecology, distribution and demographics

2.6 Performance Indicators

Measurable performance indicators will be a critical component of the recovery strategy for the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater to gauge the extent that recovery activities are successful in contributing to the stated recovery goal for the species. For the approaches identified under each of the five recovery objectives in this Recovery Strategy, a set of progress indicators should be devised. At this stage, some of the indicators will reflect the current lack of knowledge about the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater, and will be related to research activities.

During regular or scheduled intervals when the recovery strategy will be reviewed, progress indicators should be revised to reflect increasing knowledge. Indicators outlined in Table 4 therefore are preliminary. They represent the current thinking and are subject to change as recovery actions are implemented.

Table 4. List of general indicators of progress to assist in determining the extent that recovery is being achieved. Each set of indicators corresponds to a specific recovery objective.
Recovery ObjectiveIndicators of Progress
Threat Reduction
  • Effectiveness of threat reduction measures and stakeholder engagement plans are assessed.
  • Stakeholders are engaged in the development, implementation and testing of current and future of mitigation measures.
  • Action Plan is completed.
Habitat Identification and Conservation
  • Critical and/or important habitats in Canada are identified to the extent possible.
  • Tools for habitat protection are developed, implemented and their effectiveness evaluated.
  • Draft action plan for the protection of critical habitat in Canada, if considered appropriate, is developed.
International Initiatives
  • Collaboration has commenced with other nations (e.g., with the US/Japan Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Team, or through the Canada-Chile agreement on environmental cooperation) on Short-tailed Albatross and Pink-footed Shearwater conservation initiatives.
Public awareness and stewardship compliance
  • Information on Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters is produced and distributed to federal and provincial governments.
  • Public awareness materials (e.g., briefing kits, web resources, brochures) are produced and distributed.
  • Initiatives to educate and train stakeholders about their role in the conservation of the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater are developed and implemented.
Addressing knowledge gaps
  • Distribution and abundance of Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters frequenting Canadian waters are quantified.
  • Length (and range) of time individual birds remain in Canadian territory is determined.
  • Historic and current sightings are compiled and organized in a database.
  • Knowledge from research and monitoring activities are compiled in a comprehensive, living reference document that is regularly updated and accessible to a broad range of user groups.
  • Research on foraging ecology, movements and behaviour of Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canadian waters is initiated.
  • Research is initiated on the oceanographic correlates that relate to the spatial/ temporal distribution of Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canadian waters.
  • Survey program are established to develop indices of abundance (e.g., long term population trends).

2.7 Critical Habitat

2.7.1 Identification of the species' critical habitat

SARA defines critical habitat as the “habitat that is necessary for the survival and recovery of a listed wildlife species and that is identified as the species' critical habitat in the recovery strategy or in an action plan for the species”. Given the limited knowledge and lack of predictability about the marine habitat associations of Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters, and the present difficulties associated with rigorously defining critical habitat in marine environments, it is not possible to identify critical habitat for these two species in this recovery strategy. A schedule of studies for identifying critical habitat is included below (Section 2.7.2); although it is acknowledged that these studies may instead determine that the critical habitat concept does not apply to one or both of these species.

Critical habitat for Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters, if found to be a relevant concept, would likely be characterised by seasonal oceanographic features and bathymetry. If it exists in Canadian waters, critical habitat for Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters will likely be dynamic and consist primarily of important foraging areas structured by oceanic conditions (cf. Hyrenbach et al. 2000, Gubbay 2006). To qualify as critical habitat for recovery in Canada, these areas would need to be identifiable and used annually/regularly by a significant proportion of the Canadian population. Piatt et al. (2006) stated that there are predictable Short-tailed Albatross hotspots, and that the hotspots can be protected via management of the potential threats in the areas or through the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs). Whether such hotspots occur within Canadian waters and could be considered for protection, or indeed designation as critical habitat, is unknown at this time. However, the hypothesis presents a reasonable focus for future research and discussions of critical habitat for the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater in Canada.

2.7.2 Studies to identify critical habitat

The following is a list of efforts required in order to fill Canadian critical habitat knowledge gaps and determine (a) whether the concept of critical habitat applies to one or both species; and (b) identify critical habitat if the concept does apply.

Table 5. Schedule of studies to identify critical habitat.
Description of ActivityOutcome/RationaleTimeline (Year)
1. Investigate methods to identify and describe marine critical habitat in Canada and other jurisdictions, and determine how or whether these apply to Short-tailed Albatrosses or Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canada.Determination of whether critical habitat applies to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters. Methods to identify marine critical habitat if the concept applies.2007 – 2009
2. If the concept applies, conduct targeted ship-based surveys and remote-sensing studies (e.g., satellite tags) in Canadian waters or at colonies during the breeding season to identify specific marine habitats that may be critical to Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters while in Canadian waters. These areas could include foraging “hotspots” or travel corridors.Identification of areas of important habitat; determination of whether these constitute critical habitat.2008 – 2013
3. In concert with Activity 2, determine whether remote-sensing data (sea surface temperature, chlorophyll) can serve as proxies for shearwater and albatross prey distribution, to provide alternate methods of marine critical habitat identification and conservation.Determination of cost-effective tools for habitat identification; determination of focal study sites for studies conducted under Activity 2.2008 - 2013

2.8 Existing and Recommended Approaches to Habitat Protection

There are currently no marine areas designated specifically to conserve and protect the habitat of Short-tailed Albatrosses or Pink-footed Shearwaters in Canada. If and when critical habitat is identified, approaches for its protection under the provisions of the SARA will be more easily determined.

Under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, Parks Canada is responsible for the creation of National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs) which will be managed for sustainable use, and protected from industrial activities such as marine dumping, mining, and oil and gas exploration and development. A proposed NMCA in the southern Queen Charlotte Islands will extend 10 km offshore from Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. This will provide some protection to a small portion of near-shore habitat that may be occasionally used by Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters. Consultations on the proposed NMCA are on hold pending negotiations with the Council of the Haida Nation (M. Dunn, pers. comm. 2006).

MPAs may be established under the Oceans Act, and Marine Wildlife Areas (MWAs) can be established under the Canada Wildlife Act. Currently Environment Canada has a project underway that is examining the feasibility of setting up a MWA around the Scott Islands. The study area covers 25,812 km², the majority of which is in deep waters beyond the continental shelf and shelfbreak. Under the auspices of a federal-provincial memorandum of understanding, a shared regulatory regime and management plan for the Scott Islands MWA will be developed with the conservation of seabirds and their habitats as the primary focus (M. Dunn, pers. comm. 2007). Since 1999 there have been four confirmed sightings of Short-tailed Albatrosses in the Scott Islands MWA study area, and two satellite-tracked birds have passed through the area (figures 3a, b). Pink-footed Shearwaters have been recorded within the MWA study area from May through October (K. Morgan unpubl. data 2006).

2.9 Effects on Other Species

In Canada, Short-tailed Albatrosses and Pink-footed Shearwaters occur primarily along the continental shelf and upper slope habitats and occasionally in near-shore waters. Efforts to recover both of these species in Canadian waters could benefit other migratory, pelagic or continental shelf vertebrates including other species at risk (e.g., Leatherback Turtle, at-risk cetaceans, Black-footed Albatross), particularly if critical habitat is designated and managed. Public outreach activities will also increase general awareness of the need for marine conservation.

2.10 Recommended Approach for Recovery Implementation

This recovery strategy takes a multi-species and international approach to implementation. In the future, other marine species that occupy similar habitats and face similar threats may be added to this strategy (e.g., the Black-footed Albatross). From the perspective of global distribution of breeding individuals, Japan and Chile represent the centre of distribution for the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater, respectively.

To ensure that recovery efforts in Canada complement and augment the US recovery goals, as well as make the best use of limited resources, it would be advantageous for the Canadian recovery team to communicate with the international Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Team in order to receive updates and reports on the success of their recovery efforts, to report on progress in Canada, and occasionally to attend the U.S.-based meetings. A Canadian recovery strategy will facilitate coordination and communication with the international Short-tailed Albatross Recovery Team

Throughout its range, only Canada and Chile have listed the Pink-footed Shearwater as at risk. The CEC has encouraged Canada, the United States and Mexico to adopt a “continental approach” to enhance the effectiveness of conservation measures to conserve this species (CEC 2005). It will be advantageous for Canada to coordinate its conservation efforts with Chile in order to obtain reliable population and trend estimates at the breeding colonies, to provide expertise on mitigating threats at the colonies, and to evaluate the effectiveness of this recovery strategy.

2.11 Statement on Action Plans

A single action plan for both the Short-tailed Albatross and the Pink-footed Shearwater will be written as these two species occupy similar marine habitats and face similar threats in Canada. It will be completed by July 2009.