Pink-footed shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) COSEWIC assessment and status report: chapter 11

Summary of Status Report

The Pink-footed Shearwater Puffinus creatopus occurs primarily in the eastern Pacific, and breeds on three islands off the coast of Chile. The marine range extends northwards along the coast of South and North America at least as far as south-coastal Alaska. While Pink-footed Shearwaters are known to occur in all seasons off Peru and Chile, the species is usually only found in the North American part of its range during the boreal spring and summer months. The total population size is unknown. However, the breeding population on Isla Mocha is believed to be declining. While populations in the Juan Fernandez group appear to have been more or less stable over the past 15 years, populations are believed to have declined severely in the past, particularly those on Robinson Crusoe. There is currently no demographic information available for the Pink-footed Shearwater.

The main terrestrial threats facing the Pink-footed Shearwater are from introduced predators, human disturbance and exploitation, and habitat destruction. The importance of each of these differs between breeding locations. Coatis occur on Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernandez group, and their presence is likely the greatest threat to the population of Pink-footed Shearwaters at this location. They are believed to have contributed to severe population declines in the past. Feral cats and rats are also present on Robinson Crusoe and Isla Mocha, and rats on Santa Clara. Dogs often accompany harvesters into the forest on Isla Mocha and likely take chicks from short burrows, or those sitting outside their burrows. Overall, the impacts of rats, cats and dogs on population sizes and trends are largely unknown, although preliminary research on Robinson Crusoe estimates that on average 6% of Pink-footed Shearwater nests failed in 2003 as a result of predation, either of the chick or an adult. Although illegal, it is estimated that approximately 20% of the annual chick production is taken each year on Isla Mocha. Burrows are also regularly destroyed to obtain the chicks.

Seabird-fishery interactions and oil pollution also represent extremely high potential threats, throughout the species’ range. Fishing activity is known to concentrate along the continental shelf in North America, including Canada. Pink-footed Shearwaters tend to be most frequently encountered in the same area, making the risk of interaction highly likely. To date the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have recorded no incidental take of the species in Canadian waters. However, the potential exists for the two to co-occur, both spatially and temporally, thus representing the greatest threat to the continued occurrence of the species in Canada. Recent discussions concerning the lifting of the current moratorium on gas and oil exploration off the coast of British Columbia highlights this risk. Areas that could be affected by drilling include the shelf areas of Queen Charlotte Sound, shallow areas in Hecate Strait and off the west, northwest coast of Vancouver Island. On the basis of Pink-footed Shearwater distribution, abundance and behaviour off the coast of British Columbia, the potential therefore exists for interactions between the species and the oil industry that could impact the species’ continued occurrence in this part of its range. A major oil spill has the potential to impact the species’ habitat in the Canada also.

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