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.
I usually write a diary after a sea trip but this time I had a different kind of trip. I have just returned from South America where I spent seven weeks in one of the most exciting places I've ever seen.
The original purpose of this trip was to attend the International Fishing Forum which was held in Costa Rica. But as my flight routed via Brazil, with its Projeto Albatroz and the Albatross Task Force (ATF) team, I thought it would be nice to spend some time with them, getting to know them and learn a little bit of what is done on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Attending the Forum was very exciting; meeting world experts on accidental seabird deaths gave me a whole new perspective on the ATF work and from that I could develop new strategies which hopefully we will be able to implement here in South Africa.
It was a great opportunity to meet the faces behind the e-mails and it is so much more productive when you can meet the people and discuss work face-to-face trying to solve problems that I deal with on my daily work.
The second leg of the trip included a visit to the charming town of La Serena, Chile, where Oli Yates, the new coordinator of the Albatross Task Force is based.
We spent a very productive week together. I told Oli all about the work of the South African ATF. It was an amazing learning experience for me and I'm sure Oli knows now what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic.
After leaving Oli, I headed back to Brazil where a long journey ended in the city of Itajai. In Itajai sits a very important fishing harbour which holds the most important longline fleet in Brazil.
I was warmly welcomed by Tatiana, Fabiano and Patricia from Projeto Albatroz. As I stepped out from the taxi and before I managed to get a zip of coffee, I joined them in an interview to select a new ATF member who will join Fabiano and Demetrio and will work in Itajai with the local fishermen. I felt very privileged to be part of such an important occasion.
The rest of the days I spent with Patricia in Itajai visiting the harbour, talking to fishermen and learning all about the Brazilian longline fishery. It's interesting to see how our work is so similar, the problems are more or less the same and it's also interesting to learn how every team deals with these issues. We tackle the same but different issues, such as effectiveness of tori lines, data collection, working with fishermen and the authorities. I even helped the guys making a tori line which is quite different to the one we use here in South Africa.
The time I spent in Brazil was amazing. It was the first time the South African ATF met with the Brazilians. Even though the language barrier sometimes seemed to stand in our way, we battled it through and worked hard to understand, teach and learn from each other.I felt like home in the small and warm office of the Projeto Albatroz and want to thank them from the bottom of my heart, especially Heloisa who took care of me and made sure my visit would be perfect, and perfect it was!
Now, back in Cape Town, we have an exciting year ahead of us. Thanks to the Brazilians, I feel well-equipped and ready for the challenges 2008 will bring upon me.
Muito obrigado Tatiana, Fabiano, Patricia, Helo, Sam, Loretha, Demetrio, Gremio, Roma and all the wonderful people I met in Brazil.
Happy New Year everyone!