Navy helps in Layson albatross translocation

An albatross egg is inspected with an ovascope high intensity egg candler to see if the egg is fertilized. U.S. Navy file photo by MC2 Omar Powell

Ensign Heather Hill

Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

The return of a Layson albatross to the James Campbell National Wild-life Refuge March 26 is evidence of successful milestone in a long-term project co-sponsored by the Navy to relocate the endangered seabirds — from eggs to adults — to a healthier habitat.

Three years ago, the Navy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge System, Pacific Rim Conservation (PRC), and other groups began a project aimed at establishing a new Laysan albatross colony on the northern coast of O’ahu. The initiative is carried out by stakeholders working with Sailors and civilians at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Barking Sands, Kauai.

“Our Navy’s environmental department here at PMRF has been working closely with Pacific Rim Conservation to create the best opportunities for Laysan albatross survival while also protecting pilots on the PMRF airfield,” said Captain Vinnie Johnson, commanding officer, Pacific Missile Range Facility.

Albatrosses began nesting at PMRF near an active runway, where their sixto seven-foot wing-span posed a collision hazard for aircraft.

In a mitigation to prevent collisions with aircraft each year, the eggs have been flown by the U.S. Navy from Kauai to O’ahu, most recently in December 2017, where hatchlings are raised at the James Campbell Refuge.

“As responsible stewards of our natural resources, PMRF is proud to be a partner to reduce the bird hazard to our airfield and at the same time help repopulate the albatross colony on Oahu,” Johnson said.

When the chicks are fledged they spend their first few years at sea. Their instinct is to return to where they were born after three to five years to commence nesting.

The specific Laysan albatross sighted this week, named “V106,” hatched three years ago and was raised inside a new predator-proof fenced area within a coastal dune ecosystem at the James Campbell Refuge. V106 is the first of the 46 sea-birds raised at the refuge to return after spending the past three years traveling all over the northern Pacific Ocean.

“The return of V106 marks a milestone toward the long-term success of this project,” said Eric VanderWerf of Pacific Rim Conservation. “We hope this bird and others will continue to return and begin breeding at the refuge in the next several years.”

“Albatross are threatened by sea level rise associated with global climate change. Recent storm surges have wiped out thousands of albatross nests with eggs or young chicks in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands,”

said VanderWerf. “By thinking proactively and working together to establish more secure colonies on high islands within the historical nesting range of the Laysan albatross, we can ensure a future for these birds.”

According to VanderW-erf, more than 99 percent of Laysan albatrosses nest in the low-lying northwestern Hawaiian Islands at the Midway Atoll and Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuges.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • RSS

Category: News