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Satellite Tracking Albatrosses in Alaska

Scientists are satellite tracking Laysan, black-footed, and short-tailed albatrosses, that is, the entire set of albatrosses that are found in Alaskan waters and the entire North Pacific Ocean. Albatrosses are the epitome of ocean wanderers. These highly pelagic birds routinely travel thousands of miles across ocean basins searching for food. Yet the destinations of these ocean travelers are not true wanderings; instead, they often seek specific and highly productive regions of the ocean. However, during their global travels at sea, albatrosses may encounter potential threats, especially when interacting with commercial fishing operations, which sometimes results in death (also know as “bycatch”). To gather information to help manage populations of these birds, especially in U.S. waters, scientists have used satellite-tracking to follow birds at sea. For additional information on this project or the data on this page, contact Robert Suryan (rob.suryan at, Karen Fischer (fischkar at, and Greg Balogh (Greg_Balogh at


Project Goal: We’re following these birds and analyzing all sorts of other data to figure out what factors affecting bycatch risk for all three albatross species.  We are studying albatross distribution at sea, their marine habitat use, and how they may overlap with commercial fisheries. Because albatrosses exhibit such long distance migrations, we’re also trying to figure out how much of their year albatrosses spend in U.S. waters (primarily Alaska) vs. waters offshore from other Pacific Rim countries.

Since these three species of albatrosses likely use different marine habitats, it is important to understand what makes one patch of ocean better habitat for albatrosses than another patch of ocean. If we understand this, we can figure out where the birds may be encountering human activities that could harm them.  


Below are some maps showing where the birds sporting satellite transmitters spent their time.  Note how many location hits were recorded around  the Aleutian Islands, in the Bering Sea, along the North American continental shelf, and in the pelagic waters between Alaska and Hawaii.

Data collected to date for albatrosses captured at sea in August 2006 in the Aleutian Islands, tagged with a transmitter and released.
Chick here for similar data from 2005.



Tracks of individual birds show fine-scale details of their daily movements:


Short-tailed Albatrosses

tagged in July, 2006.
Click here for a magnified view.
Click here for a track from 2005.

Photo: Hiroshi Hasegawa



Laysan Albatrosses

tagged in July, 2006.
Click here for a magnified view.
Click here for tracks from 2005.



Black-footed Albatrosses

tagged in July, 2006.
Click here for a magnified view.
Click here for tracks from 2005.



Organizations collaborating with Oregon State University on this project:

Washington Sea Grant

Yamashina Institute of Ornithology

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

North Pacific Research Board

Japan Ministry of the Environment

Related links:

Albatross Tracking Studies, North Pacific Ocean

TOPP: Tagging of Pacific Pelagics


Seabird bycatch

NOAA Fisheries

Birdlife International