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    Population, breeding, diet and conservation of Crozet shag Phalacrocorax [atriceps] melanogenis at Marion Island, 1994/95 to 2002/03

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    R.J.M. Crawford, J. Cooper, B.M. Dyer, A.C. Wolfaardt, D. Tshingana, K. Spencer, S.L. Petersen, J.L. Nel, D.G. Keith, C.L. Holness, B. Hanise, M.D. Greyling and M. du Toit (South Africa)
    Agenda Item(s)

    The number of Crozet shags or cormorants Phalacrocorax [atriceps] melanogenis breeding at subantarctic Marion Island decreased by 68% from 841 pairs in 1994/95 to 272 pairs in 2002/03. The mean number of pairs at colonies also decreased and was significantly related to the overall number of birds breeding in any given season. The decreases coincided with a period of warming and reduced precipitation at Marion Island and with a decrease in the number of gentoo penguins Pygoscelis papua breeding there. Both these seabird species forage inshore and there is considerable overlap in their diets. Nototheniid fish and the decapod Nauticaris marionis continued to be important in the diet of Crozet shags, but a change in dominance among nototheniid prey suggests availability of prey to shags changed after the mid 1980s. Crozet shags breed for the first time when aged three years. It is probable that about 25% of the mature population did not breed in 1997/98, coincident with a strong El Niño Southern Oscillation event. In four seasons, breeding pairs on average fledged 0.30 chicks from first clutches, an amount thought inadequate to sustain the population. Crozet shags at the Prince Edward Islands should now be regarded as Endangered. Placing breeding colonies in the most highly protected zone on Marion Island, considering the establishment of an ex situ population and undertaking a genetic study of the specific status of the Crozet shag are recommended conservation measures.