Prey-switching to fishery discards does not compensate for poor natural foraging conditions in breeding albatross

Amanda Kuepfer, Stephen C. Votier, Richard B. Sherley, Francesco Ventura, Rafael Matias, Orea Anderson, Paul Brickle, Alexander Arkhipkin, Paulo Catry

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Fishery discards supplement food for many seabirds, but the impacts of declining discards are poorly understood. Discards may be beneficial for some populations but have negative impacts by increasing bycatch risk or because they are junk-food. The Falkland Islands support > 70% of global black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris populations, which feed on discards. However, the effect of discards on population demographics, and implications of fishery management changes, are unknown. We analysed stomach contents of black-browed albatross chicks across eight breeding seasons (2004–2020) from New Island, Falkland Islands, to assess variation in discard consumption and how this relates to foraging conditions and breeding success. Across years, 68%–98% of samples contained natural prey, whilst 23%–88% of samples contained fishery discards. Discard consumption was positively related to fishery catches of hoki Macruronus magellanicus and sea surface temperature anomalies SSTA (°C), and negatively related to breeding success. These results suggest a diet-switching behaviour for Falkland Islands albatrosses, whereby birds switch from preferred natural prey to suboptimal discards when environmental conditions, and hence natural feeding opportunities, are unfavourable. Crucially, this study highlights that fishery discards do not compensate for poor natural foraging conditions for breeding albatrosses in the long term.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfsac069
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Early online date9 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 May 2022


  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Oceanography


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