Press release: Deepwater Group Ltd, 31 March 2017

A science expedition led by Paul Sagar is setting off to the Snares Islands for an annual survey of Southern Buller’s albatross, and while there also collecting Skua seabird poo for the Department of Conservation (DOC).

The endemic Southern Buller’s albatross is unusual among albatrosses in that it breeds under tall, dense, woody vegetation on the Snares Islands, a remote Sub-Antarctic island group.

Paul has been returning to the Snares every year since 1992 to count the number of breeding pairs, producing one of the longest population data series of any New Zealand seabird.

“Few people get to go to these protected offshore islands. It requires a special research permit from DOC to be allowed entry,” said Paul.

“I am very lucky to have spent so much of my life there, to have experienced this unique place and to know I’ve contributed to the study and conservation of this albatross population.”

The seafood industry has been very supportive of this conservation work and this year funded the trip entirely.

“This extended series of data is an invaluable asset to track how the population is growing and to inform whether we need to do more to conserve and support these birds,” said Richard Wells of Deepwater Group, a non-profit representing deep water fishing quota owners.

“What is positive, is that the Southern Buller’s are relatively abundant. The population has grown since the 1970s and is projected to continue to do so. The data collected by Paul and his team supports this and indicates there are no adverse effects on the population from human activities - including from fishing,” said Wells.

DOC have also asked the team to collect skua faeces while there to test whether there are diseases present or being transmitted in the area.