Gibson's albatross - vulnerable species listing

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Final Determination to list Gibson's AlbatrossDiomedea gibsoniRobertson & Warham 1992, as a VULNERABLE SPECIES on Schedule 2 of the Act. Listing of Vulnerable Species is provided for by Part 2 of the Act.

The Scientific Committee has found that:

1. Gibson's Albatross is a large albatross; breeding is restricted to New Zealand. It is known only to breed on three islands, Adams, Disappointment and Auckland, in the sub-Antarctic Auckland Island group (Gales 1998, Walker & Elliot 1999). The species is listed as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.

2. Gibson's Albatross breeds biennially. Most eggs are laid in December and January. Chicks fledge the following year in January and February (Gales 1998).

3. Forage for Gibson's Albatross is extremely patchy, both spatially and temporally, and individuals traverse great distances in search of food. Gibson's Albatross regularly occurs off the NSW coast usually between Green Cape and Newcastle (H. Battam, pers. comm.; Blakers et al. 1984 included within Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans). Although representing a small proportion of its total foraging area, potential forage in NSW waters during the winter is nonetheless considered significant for the species.

4. The annual breeding population of the Gibson's Albatross is relatively small and has been estimated at 6,077 pairs (Gales 1998). Unfortunately, attempts to compare past numbers with the recent estimate are confounded by inconsistent survey techniques and by the recent taxonomic separation of Gibson's Albatross from the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans.

5. Satellite tracking studies have shown that foraging areas used by males and females are mutually exclusive. Females frequent the Tasman Sea in the vicinity of 40° S, whereas males disperse to lower latitudes or moved north-east into the mid-Pacific Ocean (Elliot et al. 1995).

6. The principal threat to Gibson's Albatross is mortality via longline fishing. 'Incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds during oceanic longline fishing operations' is a Commonwealth listed Key Threatening Process (EPBC Act 1999). Gibson's Albatross was a significant bycatch species in the tuna longline fishery operating off New Zealand in a study conducted between 1988 and 1992 (Murray et al. 1993). Individuals are also known to be killed on tuna longline hooks in Australian waters (Gales 1998). Further, the breeding success of Gibson's Albatross is potentially limited by cats and pigs introduced onto the largest of the breeding islands (Walker & Elliot 1999).

7. Within NSW waters, potential threats are the loss of the southern cuttlefish populations, illegal longline fishing and oil spills.

8. Threats to Gibson's Albatross are exacerbated by the species' small breeding population and the low reproductive potential of individuals. The dependence of Gibson's Albatross on three islands within the Auckland Island group for breeding increases their vulnerability to local extinction via stochastic events.

9. In view of the above points, the Scientific Committee is of the opinion that Gibson's AlbatrossDiomedea gibsoni is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances and factors threatening its survival or evolutionary development cease to operate, and is therefore eligible for listing as a vulnerable species.

Proposed Gazettal date: 05/10/01

Exhibition period: 05/10/01 - 0911/01


Blakers, M., Davies, S.J.J.F. and Reilly, P.N. (1984). 'The Atlas of Australian Birds'. Melbourne University Press: Melbourne.

Elliot, G.P., Walker, K.J., Nicholls, D.G. and Murray, M.D. (1995). Foraging patterns of Wandering Albatross from the Auckland Islands. In 'Abstracts from the First International Conference on the Biology and Conservation of Albatrosses, Hobart (Tasmania), 28 August - 1 September, 1995'. p. 19.

Gales, R. (1998). Albatross populations: status and threats. In 'Albatross Biology and Conservation'. (Eds G. Robertson and R. Gales.) pp. 20-45. Surrey Beatty and Sons: Chipping Norton.

Murray, T., Bartle, J.A., Kalish, S.R. and Taylor, P. (1993). Incidental capture of seabirds by Japanese southern bluefin tuna longline vessels in New Zealand waters 1988-1992. Bird Conservation International 3, 181-210.

Walker, K.J. and Elliot, G.P. (1999). Population changes and biology of the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans gibsoni at the Auckland Islands. Emu 99,239-247.

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