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Continued increase in numbers of spectacled petrels Procellaria conspicillata

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2011

Peter G. Ryan*
Percy FitzPatrick Institute, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
Robert A. Ronconi
Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford St, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


Until recently, the spectacled petrel Procellaria conspicillata Gould was listed as Critically Endangered due to its small population size and ongoing incidental mortality on fishing gear. Surveys at its sole breeding locality, Inaccessible Island in the central South Atlantic Ocean, indicated that the population increased from 1999–2004, resulting in the species being down-listed to Vulnerable. We repeated the census of breeding spectacled petrels during the early incubation period in October–November 2009. Numbers of burrows increased by 55% from 2004–09, with increases in all count zones, and the greatest changes in peripheral populations. Burrow occupancy estimates remained high, averaging 81% during one-off checks. Our best estimate of the population in 2009 was 14 400 pairs, continuing the c. 7% per year increase inferred since the 1930s following the disappearance of introduced pigs. This confirms the rapid recovery of this species despite ongoing mortality on fishing gear. Our results suggest that at least some procellariiforms are able to sustain strong growth rates in the face of fishing mortality when colony based threats are removed.

Biological Sciences
Copyright © Antarctic Science Ltd 2011

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