• Kyodo


Japan and the United States will jointly research the ecology of the short-tailed albatross, one of three North Pacific species listed as endangered under the World Conservation Union, U.S. environmental officials said Tuesday.

Researchers from the two countries will use satellites and electronic tagging to track the birds’ flight patterns and routes as they fly over the Pacific, the officials said.

The Environment Ministry and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an organization under the Interior Department, will work out details of the satellite-tracking project by the end of this month at the earliest, they said.

Under the project, electronic tags for transmitting flight data will be attached to about 10 birds on Torishima Island in the Izu island chain, south of Tokyo.

The satellite will follow their movements as they return to sea to make their way to the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska and the North Pacific, the officials said.

The research will involve collecting data on the birds’ fishing activities and the influence of sea surface temperatures.

The data will be used to “determine what makes an ideal albatross habitat,” said an official at the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The service plans to earmark about $100,000 over the next few years for the project, he said.

Because of their tameness on land, albatross are also known as “foolish gulls.”

The short-tailed albatross is a seabird with long, narrow wings adapted for flying just above the surface of the water.

It has been spotted across the Pacific as far south as the northwest Hawaiian Islands and as far north as the central Bering Sea.

Currently, the only known short-tailed albatross breeding colonies are located on two remote Japanese islands in the Western Pacific — Torishima and Minamikojima.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the birds were slaughtered in large numbers for their feathers, which were used in the military. As a result, the worldwide population at one point plunged from millions to less than 50.

But their population has since been boosted to around 1,000 thanks to protective measures.

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