The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

There are currently 13 Parties to the Agreement - Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, France, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. 

Development of the Agreement commenced in 1999 and concluded rapidly, with only two meetings required to agree the text.  These meetings, held in Hobart, Australia, and Cape Town, South Africa, were attended by 16 countries and five international organizations.  ACAP was opened for signature in Canberra, Australia on 19 June 2001 and entered into force on 1 February 2004, at which time all Southern Hemisphere species of albatrosses and seven petrel species were listed under its auspices.  The Agreement’s Secretariat is located in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.  The Secretariat consists of an Executive Secretary and  a Science Officer. Additional support is provided by contractors, consultants, interns and volunteers.

The First Session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP1) was convened in November 2004 in Hobart, preceded by a two-day Scientific Meeting.  A key outcome of MOP1 was the establishment of an Advisory Committee to guide the implementation of the Agreement.  The Advisory Committee is supported by three working groups - the Population and Conservation Status Working Group, the Seabird Bycatch Working Group and the Taxonomy Working Group.  Sessions of the Meeting of Parties are ordinarily held at three-year intervals, with the Advisory Committee and its working groups meeting in the intervening years.

Species protected under ACAP

ACAP focuses on any species, subspecies or population of albatrosses and petrels listed in its Annex 1.  It currently covers all 22 of the World’s species of albatrosses of four genera, all seven species of petrels in the genera Macronectes (two species of giant petrels) and Procellaria and two species of shearwater in the genera Puffinus and Ardenna, all of which belong to the avian tubenose order Procellariformes.  Twenty-one of the listed species carry a globally threatened status, ranging from Critically Endangered (three species), Endangered (eight species) to Vulnerable (10 species).  Seven species are considered to be Near Threatened and only three of the 31 ACAP-listed species are characterized as of Least Concern.

At the Third Session of the Meeting of Parties, held in Norway in 2009, the three North Pacific albatrosses (Short-tailed Phoebastria albatrus, Laysan P. immutabilis and Black-footed P. nigripes) were added to the Agreement.  At the Fourth Session of the Meeting of Parties, held in Peru in 2012, the Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, was added to the Agreement. The addition of the Pink-footed Shearwater Ardenna creatopus in 2015 brought the total number of species included within the Agreement to 31.

Main threats to Albatrosses and Petrels

Albatrosses and petrels are susceptible to threats throughout their wide migratory ranges that extend across national boundaries into international waters. The most significant threat facing albatrosses and petrels is mortality resulting from interactions with fishing gear, especially longline and trawl fishing operations.  Other threats include land-based predators, habitat loss, climate change, disease and pollutants (including plastic). 

Although individual States are taking measures to protect albatrosses and petrels, actions by any one nation alone cannot be effective in improving their global conservation status.  International cooperation on albatross and petrel conservation is imperative to enhance the prospects for successful conservation measures across their ranges.

What ACAP does

The Agreement provides a focus for international cooperation and the exchange of information and expertise. The Action Plan annexed to the Agreement offers a framework for the implementation of effective conservation measures for these threatened seabirds, both on land and at sea. Key aspects of ACAP's work include:

  1. Mitigating Seabird Bycatch: A significant part of ACAP's work involves the continual development and review of best practice advice to reduce seabird bycatch in fisheries operations, particularly in longline fisheries. ACAP advises that the most effective way to reduce seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries is to use the following three best practice measures simultaneously: (1) branch line weighting, (2) night setting and (3) bird scaring lines; or to use one of the assessed hook-shielding and underwater bait setting devices. The simultaneous use of the three ACAP recommended mitigation measures optimises seabird bycatch reduction in longline fisheries. All three recommended measures are demonstrated to be effective; however, each has  limitations when used alone.  Consequently, the simultaneous use of the three ACAP recommended seabird bycatch mitigation measures compensates for these limitations.
  2. Engagement with Fisheries: ACAP cooperates with Regional Fishery Management Organisations (RFMOs), the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), and other relevant organisations to promote best-practice mitigation measures for seabird conservation in international waters.
  3. Population Assessments: ACAP reviews the population status and trends of all ACAP-listed species by maintaining a global database and producing a series of Species Assessments.  These assessments provide up-to-date information on each species’ distribution, threats facing individual populations, and the conservation measures in place to protect them, and identify any gaps in knowledge about the species.
  4. Conservation Guidelines: ACAP has developed Conservation Guidelines on biosecurity and quarantine for breeding sites; and the eradication of introduced mammals from islands; plus guidelines on observer data collection; and electronic monitoring. All of these are available at the ACAP website.
  5. Intergovernmental Cooperation: ACAP supports and encourages national, binational, and regional cooperation plans to protect seabirds. Such plans include: the Action Plan for the Waved Albatross P.irrorata of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands; the Regional Action Plan-Seabirds between Argentina and Uruguay, and the Australia/Chile/New Zealand Action Plan for the Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis supported by the CMS Concerted Action Plan for the Antipodean Albatross, adopted in 2020).
  6. Supporting research and capacity building: ACAP provides funding for scientific research aligning with its conservation objectives through the ACAP Small Grants and Secondments Programme. These programmes foster cross-Party collaboration, promote knowledge-sharing and encourage capacity-building within Parties.
  7. Awareness and Outreach: ACAP enhances public awareness of the challenges facing albatrosses and petrels through its website and  social media platforms, and through other outreach efforts such as World Albatross Day, celebrated annually on 19 June.

Looking ahead

The Agreement’s primary objective to achieve and maintain a favourable conservation status for listed albatrosses and petrels has been the driving force behind its implementation since it came into force in 2004. As ACAP approaches its 20th anniversary in 2024, it has made significant progress towards this objective. Notably, nearly all relevant RFMOs have adopted conservation measures based on  ACAP’s best practice advice for seabird bycatch mitigation in pelagic longline fisheries (a combination of night setting, line weighting and deployment of bird-scaring lines). Additionally, ACAP successfully established World Albatross Day, an internationally recognised celebration.

Despite these achievements, many albatross and petrel populations continue to decline. Significant challenges remain, such as the need to collect accurate data on the locations and quantities of seabirds caught as bycatch in fishing operations—a critical component for the effective implementation of conservation measures. Another challenge is actively involving Range States and other fishing entities that have not yet implemented ACAP's recommendations. ACAP acknowledges that there is still much work to be done and emphasises that it is only through a committed and cooperative approach to these challenges that ACAP can achieve its goal of ensuring a favourable conservation status for albatrosses and petrels.



Title Status Status date CMS Party number Region
Argentina Party 2006 039 South & Central America & The Caribbean
Australia Party 2001 037 Oceania
Brazil Party 2008 122 South & Central America & The Caribbean
Canada Range State North America
Chile Party 2005 001 South & Central America & The Caribbean
China Range State AM Asia
Ecuador Party 2003 085 South & Central America & The Caribbean
European Union Range State 001 Europe
France Party 2005 032 Europe
Germany Range State 016 Europe
Indonesia Range State AM Oceania
Japan Range State Asia
Namibia Range State AM Africa
New Zealand Party 2001 069 Oceania
Norway Party 2007 018 Europe
Peru Party 2005 050 South & Central America & The Caribbean
Poland Range State 049 Europe
Republic of Korea Range State Asia
Russian Federation Range State AM Europe
South Africa Party 2003 038 Africa
Instrument nameAgreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels
TypeArticle IV(3)
DepositaryGovernment of Australia. c/o Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The R G Casey Building, John McEwen Crescent, Barton ACT 0221, Australia Tel: (+61) 2 6261 2636, Fax: (+61) 2 6261 2144
SignatureOpened for signature on 19 June 2001. Signed by 11 States: AUSTRALIA, Brazil, CHILE, FRANCE, NEW ZEALAND, PERU and UNITED KINGDOM (all on 19.6.01). SPAIN(30.4.02), ECUADOR(18.2.03), SOUTH AFRICA(6.11.03), ARGENTINA(19.1.04)
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