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Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)

Albatrosses and petrels are one of the most globally threatened groups of birds in the world. The vast foraging movements of these seabirds take them over the high seas and the national waters of many nations, making them truly international animals. Albatrosses and petrels face a suite of threats, both at their breeding colonies and at sea. The most critical of these is the mortality caused by longline and trawl fisheries in both domestic and international waters, with other threats including: the impact of introduced predators at breeding sites, disease, human disturbance, pollution and the effects of climate change.  Although most Range States of breeding populations undertake actions to conserve albatrosses and petrels within their national jurisdictions, the highly migratory nature of these species dictates that additional international co-operative action is required. 

The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) was adopted in Cape Town, South Africa and opened for signature in Canberra, Australia in 2001. ACAP initially covered nineteen albatross and seven larger petrel species of the southern hemisphere. However, at the Third Session of ACAP’s Meeting of the Parties in May 2009, the three north Pacific albatrosses (Black-footed, Laysan and Short-tailed Albatrosses) were added to Annex 1 of the Agreement. All twenty-two albatross species worldwide are therefore now covered by the Agreement. At the fourth session of the Meeting of Parties, Balearic shearwater was added to Annex 1, bringing in the smaller petrels for the first time and expanding the focus from being solely the a southern hemisphere to covering all of the world's oceans.  The purpose of the Agreement is to establish a co-operative and comprehensive framework and process to restore these species to a favourable conservation status. The Agreement aims to stop or reverse population declines by co-ordinating international action to mitigate known threats to albatross and petrel populations, The Agreement and its Action Plan (Annex 2) describe the actions that Parties are required to progressively implement. The Action Plan covers the following areas of work:

  • Species conservation
  • Habitat conservation and restoration
  • Management of human activities
  • Research and monitoring
  • Collation of information by the Agreement’s Advisory Committee
  • Education and public awareness
  • Implementation

The Agreement came into force on 1 February 2004.  As of March 2019, there are 13 Parties to the Agreement. The UK signed the Agreement in 2001 and ratified the Agreement on 2 April 2004. This ratification was extended to the Overseas Territories of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the British Antarctic Territory on the same date; and to Tristan da Cunha in April 2006 after Tristan da Cunha had adopted revised conservation legislation that met ACAP requirements.

JNCC provided scientific advice to the UK Government during negotiation sessions to draw up the Agreement and has subsequently continued to do so. This advice is based on knowledge of the status of albatross populations and of the working of mechanisms to implement other Agreements.

JNCC co-ordinates the provision of advice on albatross and petrel conservation to the relevant Overseas Territory Governments and other stakeholders, and facilitates co-ordination between the UK metropolitan Government and the relevant parts of administrations in the Overseas Territories on ACAP issues, and thus contributes towards the UK fulfilling the obligations of the Agreement. For the past five years this co-ordination has included a dedicated JNCC staff member, part-funded by UK Government and the Governments of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the British Antarctic Territory.


International conventions

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