Above picture:  ACAP announces its theme for World Albatross Day, 19 June 2024

The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) has announced that “Marine Protected Areas – Safeguarding our Oceans” is to be its theme for this year’s World Albatross Day (WAD2024) on 19 June.  Many breeding localities for ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels are surrounded by large Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including South Africa’s Marion and Prince Edward Islands, with an MPA totalling 180 000 km² declared in 2103. The four species of albatrosses which breed on the larger Marion Island are all threatened by the introduced House Mouse Mus musculus.  The Mouse-Free Marion Project is working towards the eradication of the mice.  Ridding Marion Island of its mice will mean its imperilled albatrosses and petrels will be properly protected both on land and when at sea within MPAs.

In 2019, ACAP’s Advisory Committee met in Brazil and declared that a conservation crisis continues to be faced by its 31 listed species, nine of which breed on the Prince Edward Islands.  To increase awareness of this crisis ACAP inaugurated a World Albatross Day, to be held annually from 2020 on 19 June, the date the Agreement was signed in 2001.  ACAP’s previous themes for World Albatrosses have been “Eradicating Island Pests” in 2020, “Ensuring Albatross-friendly Fisheries” in 2021, “Climate Change” in 2022 and “Plastic Pollution” in 2023.

A juvenile Wandering Albatross in the southern Indian Ocean; photograph by Kirk Zufelt

ACAP writes of this year’s theme: “Albatrosses are the ultimate ocean wanderers, spending most of their lives at sea traversing vast distances across the globe in search of food such as fish, squid and krill.  This year, World Albatross Day will focus on the connection between albatrosses and the ocean and highlight how MPAs can help improve the conservation status of these magnificent birds.”

“MPAs provide levels of protection for the species and ecosystems located within their defined geographical boundaries through the legal frameworks that determines the type of economic activity (if any) that can occur within them.  They can be designated by governments within their own territorial waters, and now, with the landmark signature of the Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction or ‘BBNJ treaty’, by 84 nations, the creation of MPAs in waters commonly known as the High Seas will become possible.”

ACAP has produced a logo to mark World Albatross Day on 19 June 2024


ACAP continues to say that “the establishment of MPAs can assist in improving the conservation status of albatrosses through the protection of the immediate surrounds of their breeding localities and key regions across their migratory ranges, and through the management of activities permitted within them, such as fishing.  The ocean, which covers more than 70% [of the] Earth’s surface, is facing increased pressures from climate change and human activity including, overfishing, deep sea mining, and pollution.  The celebration of WAD2024 on 19 June will be a chance to raise awareness of these incredible birds and put a spotlight on MPAs as one of the tools that can help us to safeguard albatrosses and the wider marine environment, ensuring the incredibly rich and biologically diverse array of life sustained by the ocean thrives for generations to come.”

As well as the surrounding large Marine Protected Area, the Prince Edward Islands have an international status as a Ramsar Wetland Site (No. 1688), inscribed in 2007.  The boundaries of the site extend 500 m out to sea around each island’s coastline to encompass the inshore kelp beds.  The two islands and their surrounding territorial waters out to 12 nautical miles were designated as a Special Nature Reserve in 1995, South Africa’s highest level of protection, supported by a Management Plan, adopted in 2014.


DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology 2010 [2014].  Prince Edward Islands Management Plan Version 0.2.  [Department of Environmental Affairs].  202 pp.

Lombard, A.T., Reyers, B., Schonegevel, L.Y., Cooper, J., Smith-Adao, L.B., Nel, D.C., Froneman, P.W., Ansorge, I.J., Bester, M.N., Tosch, C.A., Strauss, T., Akkers, T., Gon. O., Leslie, R.W. & Chown, S.L. 2007.  Conserving pattern and process in the Southern Ocean: designing a Marine Protected Area for the Prince Edward Islands.  Antarctic Science 19: 39-54.


John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 30 January 2024


Sooty Albatrosses fly in unison over the sea between Prince Edward Island (on the horizon) and Marion Island; photograph by Stefan Schoombie and poster design by Michelle Risi

The Mouse-Free Marion Project is a registered non-profit company (No. 2020/922433/08) in South Africa, established to eradicate the invasive albatross-killing mice on Marion Island in the Southern Ocean.  The project was initiated by BirdLife South Africa and the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.  Upon successful completion, the project will restore the critical breeding habitat of over two million seabirds, many globally threatened, and improve the island’s resilience to a warming climate.  For more information or to support the project please visit mousefreemarion.org.