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Structured decision-making to guide values-based conservation of the critically endangered Kuaka/Whenua Hou Diving Petrel

JH Fischer1, KA Parker2, CF Kenup3, GA Taylor1, I Debski1 & JG Ewen4

1 Aquatic Unit, Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.

2 Parker Conservation, Nelson, New Zealand.

3 Wildlife Ecology Group, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

4 Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London, UK.

Hidden values can create conflict. Therefore, transparency through explicit statements of underlying values can improve implementation of conservation management. This is particularly true for seabird conservation because seabirds utilise different ecosystems, increasing the number of values and uncertainty, further complicating management decisions. Through a structured decision-making process, we enabled values-based conservation of Kuaka/Whenua Hou Diving Petrels (Pelecanoides whenuahouensis), which persist in low numbers (~210 adults) at a single colony on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island and are at risk from a several threats (e.g., storm-induced erosion, interspecific competition, and vessel-based light pollution). We formed a working group consisting of Kāi Tahu, government, and industry representatives. Together, we identified seven fundamental objectives (values) and eleven management alternatives, ranging from Status Quo to translocations and vessel curfews. By combining expert panels, Shiny-app-based elicitations, and projections using integrated population models (IPMs), we then predicted future outcomes, including associated uncertainty across objectives for all alternatives. This approach allowed the working group to navigate the decision landscape, avoid conflict, make well-informed trade-offs, and identify the best potential management option for Kuaka. A values-based approach allowed for transparent and inclusive decision-making for conservation management of Kuaka and has the potential to improve the recovery of many other threatened seabirds worldwide.