Thousands of albatrosses die needlessly every year as the victims of longling fishing. They are attracted to the baited hooks, get caught and are dragged under the water and drown.
Fishermen are often unaware of the simple, cost effective techniques that when used rapidly reduce albatross deaths.
In 2005, along with a number of our BirdLife International partners, the Albatross Task Force was formed. These men and women are the world's first international team of skilled, at-sea instructors.
Since their formation, there have been a dramatic reduction in the numbers of albatross and other seabirds killed. This is a sure sign that Albatross Task Force members really are getting something practical done to help save albatrosses from extinction.
This blog follows the trials and tribulations of the Albatross Task Force as they work onshore and at sea, spreading the message about these life-saving techniques.
The last month was a dry land month for me. I was busy with four workshops we organised for fishermen and managers from the local fisheries - hake longline and trawl fishery, tuna and swordfish longline and shark longline fisheries. We also conducted a workshop for Compliance Officers.
The workshops all went very well. We learn a lot from the industry people and also make important contacts that help us a lot with our work.
I recently 'employed' my new 'Bird Officer' onboard the 'Atalanta', which is a South African tuna longliner. His name is Ali Hessein and he is the Second Engineer on the vessel. He joins Michael Swanepoel ('Swanni') from the 'Saxon'. Both are important suppliers of information regarding the seabird bycatch and tori line use on their boats.
We make contact every time they come back from sea and they tell me all the details I need and bring back dead birds if there are any. I want to thank them for their co-operation - it is completely voluntary and comes out of their passion for the birds, as for all marine wildlife.
Next week I'm going to sea again. This trip will be on a hake longline out of Mossel Bay on the south coast of South Africa.
July was a great month. We've been doing lots of workshops and now the phones are ringing off the hook - everyone has to have a tori line!
It has been crazy... our newly-constructed tori lines are leaving the shelf as quickly as they are being made!
We've run workshops at some of the most important ports including two for the hake longline fishery and two for the deep-water hake trawl fishery, where new research shows that over 20,000 seabirds are being killed by this fishery in South Africa each year. I'm also really pleased that we've made great progress at training workshops for both onshore and off-shore compliance officers.
The content of the workshops is tailored-made for each fishery and we follow-up afterwards with a newsletter. We do a presentation of the seabird bycatch problem in both a global and local context, followed by the results of the research in that particular fishery.
This includes catch estimates and estimates of how many seabirds are being caught, mitigation trials and gear performance. These results are of particular interest to the fishermen, because they like to know the effectiveness of their practices.
The discussion that follows is the really important bit because it's then that fishermen give their ideas on the success and failures of the mitigation measures and explain why they haven't been used in the first place. This information exchange is vital to mapping a way forward to more advanced and effective fishing practices that will catch only fish!
The feedback has been phenomenal, with people being very willing to help. Believe it or not, we were invited to help run inspections at sea with the offshore officials (or sea cops as I like to call them!).
We inspected five trawlers, and since the new permit conditions stating that two tori lines should be flown outside of the gear, four out of five vessels flew tori lines! We've had smiles reaching all the way back to land.
The results were obvious and at the top of the page is the picture to prove it! But we haven't reached the mindsets of everyone yet, so there is still much work to be done.