ROBERT J. SHALLENBERGER/U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE
The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge hosts the largest nesting colony of black-footed albatross in the world, about 11,500 pairs.
Feds eye protected status for black-footed albatross
The federal government has begun a yearlong process to consider protecting the black-footed albatross as a threatened or endangered species.
The sooty-brown birds have a wingspan of up to 7 feet and feed on flying-fish eggs and squid floating on the ocean surface.
Of about 120,000 black-footed albatross in the world, 97 percent nest in the predator-free Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
"The health of this majestic seabird is a concern for all of us who care about marine ecosystems," said Patrick Leonard, Pacific Islands field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Three years ago, the Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the agency to list the black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) under the Endangered Species Act.
Fish and Wildlife postponed taking action on the petition, citing workloads. Now the agency is ready to conduct a "status review" of the birds, it said in a release. It will seek to determine whether the black-footed albatross faces one or more of these risks: habitat destruction, overuse, disease or predation, inadequate existing protection and other natural and manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
Known concerns for the black-footed albatross are drowning on longline fishing hooks and high levels of mercury, PCBs and DDT and other contaminants consumed in food.
Copies of the Federal Register notice regarding the black-footed albatross can be seen at www.fws.gov/pacificislands/ or requested by calling (808) 792-9400.