Kia Whakamaramatia Mahi Titi : Predictive measures for understanding harvest impacts on Sooty Shearwaters (Puffinus griseus)
Abstract:The sooty shearwater (also known as the muttonbird, Tītī, Puffinus griseus) is a long-lived super-abundant, burrow nesting petrel, harvested by Rakiura Māori from breeding colonies, located in southern New Zealand. The harvest is culturally defining and enormously important for Rakiura Māori. The work in this thesis contributes to the Kia Mau te Tītī Mo Ake Tōnu Atu Research Project being undertaken by Rakiura Māori and the University of Otago, towards assessing ongoing sustainability of the harvest and future threats.Analyses of eight muttonbirder harvest records spanning, 1938 to 2004, show that harvest rates demonstrate, systematic commonalities in seasonal patterns and broad-scale consistency in trends of chick abundance and quality across harvested islands. If co-ordinated and well replicated, harvest records offer Rakiura Māori a low-cost and effective monitoring tool of sooty shearwater reproductive success and long-term population abundance. Hunt tallies provide additional evidence of a dramatic reduction in sooty shearwater abundance from the late 1980s that was also detected by counts from boats off the western seaboard of the USA. A conservative estimate of overall decline in hunt success across diaries, for the period 1972 to 2004, is 1.89 % (CI₉₅ 1.14 to 2.65) per annum, a total reduction of 39.2%. The harvesting records show a sooty shearwater mortality event occurred just prior to the 1993-breeding season at the same time as a severe negative anomaly in both the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and Southern Oscillation Indices. The hunting diaries show a decoupling of chick size with harvest success in the early 1990s. This resulted from a decline in harvest success and an increase in its variability, while chick size remained correlated with changing chick abundance and maintained its pre-1990 average. Long- lived seabirds maintain high survival by skipping breeding and abandoning breeding attempts when oceanic conditions deteriorate, increasing variability in chick abundance is also evidence of pressure on adult survivorship. The multiple diaries confirm these were major demographic events not confined to a single island.My survival estimates for The Snares and Whenua Hou were very high 0.952 (0.896-0.979) compared to earlier estimates for this species. Transience at the colonies is high due to the presence ofjuvenile and pre-breeding birds. Both naturally high survival and the large number of transient pre-breeders indicate sooty shearwater are more resilient to harvest than earlier survival models suggested. There was no evidence for directional change in sooty shearwater breeding phenology over 49-years of harvest. Climate fluctuation/change is therefore apparently not altering egg-laying. Peak fledging occurred fairly consistently in the 2nd of May (IQR = 2.91 days). Yearly variability in emergence occurs primarily due to provisioning and localized fledging conditions. Larger chick size was strongly correlated with delayed fledging and is consistent with the traditional ecological knowledge of the birders. There was no evidence for chicks becoming smaller or that years with starving chicks were more common, so increasing mismatch of breeding with optimal forage was not indicated.The past proportion of birders over the last 20 years (1985 - 2005) has been ~2% all of Rakiura Māori. Approximately 376 birders participated in the 2006 season with an estimated of overall harvest intensity 19.4% (CI₉₅ = 13.8 - 24.2%) and a total catch of 381,000 (CI₉₅ = 262,257 - 487,186) chicks. This study found evidence that catch rates reduced with increasing birder competition partially mitigating effects on harvest pressure. The combined effects of potential climate change on bird abundance and increased harvester competition suggests that the proportion of Rakiura Māori whom choose to bird is likely to decrease as tallies reduce and cost recovery becomes more difficult. Rakiura Māori have for many years cherished and maintained their islands and implemented protective measures to safeguarded tītī breeding habitat. Future harvest management will have additional issues to contend with, but Rakiura Māori are necessarily confronting these issues as the tītī culture rests on the maintenance of their taonga. The information presented in this thesis shows that combining science and traditional knowledge is a powerful tool for managing harvest sustainability.
Advisor: Fletcher, David; Moller, Henrik
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Mathematics and Statistics
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
1 v. (various pagings) :ill. (some col.), maps ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. "July 26, 2009". University of Otago department: Mathematics and Statistics