Studies carried out over the past three decades at Crozet and Kerguelen Islands in the Indian Ocean indicate that wandering albatross Diomedea exulans populations declined markedly, but since 1986 have shown slow recovery. The population of the endangered Amsterdam albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis appears to have similarly recovered since 1985, but remains close to extinction. A demographic study of the Crozet population indicates that the earlier decline was mainly the result of increased adult mortality, and secondarily of low recruitment. Satellite tracking studies of breeding birds and band recoveries of non breeding birds indicate that during and outside the breeding season these populations are in contact with long-line fisheries, mainly the pelagic Japanese southern blue-Jin tuna fishery and to a lesser extent the Patagonian tooth-fish fishery operating on the Kerguelen shelf: Decreased fishing effort and a concentration outside the central Indian Ocean by the Japanese fishery during recent years has probably resulted in the slow recovery of these albatross populations as a result of improved adult survival and recruitment. Long-line fisheries still represent a major threat to great albatross populations, most which are still declining in the Southern Ocean. Possible conservation measures to reduce mortality in the fishery and to reduce contacts between fishing units and foraging albatrosses are examined.
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