We have compelling evidence already that that ocean areas occupied by one iconic seabird species, the shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta), are changing. South-east Australia is already one of the fastest warming ocean areas. Many biological changes have already been observed in the region – many fish and plankton species are moving further south and the ocean is now less productive around the breeding colonies.
Using a range of tools, we have identified a range of adaptation options for shy albatross, which breeds only in Tasmania. These adaptation options are being considered by the Tasmanian management agency (DPIPWE), and one option was tested in 2014, with followup tests in 2015 and 2016. This option involved treatment of disease in albatross chicks, which increased survival of treated chicks by 10% over a six week period. Additional testing is now underway to identify the period during chick rearing when treatment is most effective, and in what years (e.g. in wet years, disease prevalence is higher). Artificial nests were deployed in 2016, with a full trial planned in 2017.
Geoff’s scientific reputation in fishery assessments and seabird population dynamics has led to memberships of a number of national and international seabird-fishery interactions working groups (for Southern Bluefin Tuna, the Antarctic, Atlantic Oceans and the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels). The UK government and seabird NGOs in 2010 used the results of a major international project led by Geoff to successfully change the mitigation measures used to reduce seabird bycatch across all longline fleets in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, Geoff was an invited panel member (one of only two) to determine whether the $26m Federal and State funded Macquarie Island pest eradication project should proceed into 2011 following the unexpected secondary poisoning of seabirds. Geoff created (and regularly updates) a large database of fishing effort data from all Southern Hemisphere trawl and line fleets operating on the high seas and in national waters to serve this need.
Drawing on decades of experience in marine and coastal pollution research, CSIRO has been leading research on marine plastic pollution for the last decade. Working with the Dederal Department of the Environment, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other bodies, the pollution team has been taking a risk-based approach to tackling the marine litter issue, with a particular focus on the threat posed to threatened and endangered marine fauna (seabirds, turtles and marine mammals).
A set of projects in this research area is underway, involving CSIRO and other partners, including: