Population status

Short-tailed Albatross
(Phoebastria albatrus)

The majority of Short-tailed Albatrosses nest on Torishima Island, an intermittently active, volcanic Japanese island. Short-tailed Albatrosses range as far north as the Bering Sea, occasionally the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea, and as far south as 10-15˚N. The species does not breed in Canada, but is found off the coast of British Columbia as visitors. Historically, when the global population was estimated to have been in the millions (COSEWIC 2013g), Short-tailed Albatrosses were likely very common on Canada’s west coast. However, after 70 years of slaughter at their colonies for the feather trade, by 1949, the species was thought to be extinct (Austin 1949, Tickell 2000). The species persisted, apparently due to a small number of immature birds being at sea during the final harvests (Austin 1949, COSEWIC 2013g). Since then, the global population has rebounded to an estimated 6,873 individuals (P. Sievert, University of Massachusetts, pers.comm.). Of the predicted total global population, it is estimated that 3,308 are adults. Although, theoretically this represents a potential breeding population of 1,654 pairs, in any given year ~21% of adult Short-tailed Albatrosses do not breed (P. Sievert, pers. comm.). Based on a count of 1,011 nests on Torishima in the 2018/2019 nesting season (H. Hasegawa, unpub. data), and accounting for birds not breeding this year, the current annual global breeding population is likely >1,300 pairs. Numbers on Torishima have been increasing at over 8% per year (P. Sievert, pers. comm.); it is anticipated that the species will become more common in Canadian waters as the population rebounds (COSEWIC 2013g). Overall, monitoring data are insufficient to determine any change in population status relative to 1970 for the Short-tailed Albatrosses that travel and forage in Canadian waters. Because of the lack of data specific to Canada, and because the population was still artificially depressed in the early 1970s, a quantitative population goal for the species has not yet been determined, though the Recovery Strategy states that increasing the seasonal populations that occupy Canadian waters is required to support international conservation measures (Environment Canada 2008a). The species is below the lowest acceptable level until it is de-listed under the Species At Risk Act.


Population goal and acceptable levels of variation

Species/groupGoalLower levelUpper level
Short-tailed AlbatrossAbundance required for de-listing (SARA)Equal to goalNot applicable