South Africa joins global celebrations of World Albatross Day

19 June 2020


Today, on the 19th June, South Africa joins the world in celebrating World Albatross Day. The day honours these magnificent birds and highlights the ongoing conservation crisis they face.

South Africa, as one of the five founding members, is a long-standing Party to the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). The agreement was brought into existence on 1 February 2004.

The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, has inaugurated World Albatross Day to raise awareness of these sea birds worldwide. The day also falls on the date of the signing of the Agreement 20 years ago.

Populations of albatrosses and giant petrels on South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands (Marion and Prince Edward) in the southern Indian Ocean, have been monitored for several decades (over 40 years for the globally Vulnerable Wandering Albatross).  Results of these studies are submitted annually to ACAP.  However, monitoring on Marion Island has been halted in the current year due to difficulties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Africa is now busy revising its National Plan of Action – Seabirds (NPOA-S) that will further reduce at-sea mortality of seabirds on pelagic and demersal long-line vessels and demersal trawlers in South African waters.

The country has commenced with plans towards the eradication of Marion Island's introduced house mice that have taken to attacking and killing the island’s albatross chicks of four species.  If carried out successfully, Marion will be by far the largest island from which mice have been eradicated anywhere in the world.

Albatrosses and petrels are arguably the world’s most pelagic seabirds, breeding on remote oceanic islands, and ranging across seas far away from continental shores.  Most species migrate over vast distances, especially when not breeding. Several species, notably albatrosses, can undertake movements that encircle the Southern Ocean, either as non-breeding adults or as juveniles, whereas others may range from Antarctic to Subtropical waters, including within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of South Africa. During such movements they may enter the territorial and EEZ waters of other nations, making them truly international species, and thus their conservation a matter of international concern and shared responsibility.

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