Well... first, before I introduce myself, I would like to share my happiness and enthusiasm to join the Albatross Task Force Team, Guardians of Albatrosses! I am very pleased to join this select group of people who dedicate their work and effort for this noble matter which is the conservation of such magnificent birds!
My name is Caio Azevedo Marques, I am a Brazilian biologist who has been acting in the area of marine biology, conducting scientific research and environmental monitoring, among other works applied to conservation of natural environments and their biodiversity.
I have just been selected to the position of Field Instructor of Albatross Task Force, here in Brazil, more specifically in the State of Espirito Santo, in the municipality of Itapemirim, in the district of Itaipava, where there is a diversified and expert traditional fishing community.
The Itaipava fleet and the fishermen are very famous in the most diverse ports of our country. Today Itaipava is well-known for having one of the largest fresh fish Brazilian exportation and it heads the tuna fish and dolphin fish large production.
All this fishing potential by the Itaipava's fleet represents a potential threat to the seabirds... But to date our knowledge of these fisheries is tiny by comparison, but I intend to change that! Actually, the strategy is get closer to this port, the vessels and fishermen, knowing their habits, customs and techniques, and get them as partners.
To create this link with the stakeholders, we will get space to introduce all the problems regarding seabird deaths, and together we can overcome these problems, protecting the seabirds and improving their fishery productions simultaneously...
Already I had been in Itaipava together with Demétrio (our former ATF field instructor). I had the opportunity to meet and establish partnerships with the Itaipava Fishermen and Shipowners Association (APEDI), that is the greatest local partners, and they are providing us a place to install a local office. Besides APEDI, we have also visited others institutions of extreme importance to consolidate us as effective partners of the regional fishing sector, such as the radio room where they maintain contact with the vessels at-sea.
We also visited the landing port, the harbor actually is still on the beach (they are building a port, that will facilitate the landings), and there is also a restaurant bar (undoubtedly this is the biggest fishermen meeting point!). In our visit to this harbour, we followed a dolphin fish landing, where we talked with fishermen and skippers.
I am very excited to start my task in Itaipava!
We have arrived in the summer months of December and January and typically the pelagic longline vessels stop their activities and the crew take a well-earned rest. This period lasts until the end of February and in some cases extends to mid-March.
During this time, I have taken the opportunity to meet with colleagues and close friends to discuss the Albatross Task Force and our intentions and aims for 2008 and beyond. A large part of my time has been explaining the mitigation trials we will be conducting this year and many of the guys on the pelagic vessels are interested to know more about it.
The most frequent question is whether or not they will all be affected; of course the answer is that we intend to try out the bird-scaring lines on as many boats as possible and that all vessels use them.
There are two types of vessel in the fishery, the artisan and the industrial, which are separated by size. The fishing method is essentially the same and it will be interesting to see how the bird-scaring lines work on different boats.
Industrial vessels carry a fishery observer who collects biological catch data and who will also help monitor seabird issues. The smaller artisan vessels, however, don't have observers due to lack of available space.
In order to collect seabird data from the artisan vessels, I have been convincing the captains to take data sheets with them to mark down when dead birds are captured and also bring samples when possible so that we can check species identification and take measurements. I am happy to say that there has been a great deal of willingness to cooperate.
As most of the vessels belong to a single company with whom we have good relations, I have been working to increase involvement with another fishing company, Sunrise, who have two vessels and are currently investing in a third to join the industrial fleet. They are showing interest in the mitigation work and seem happy to work with us to reduce the mortality that we have found in this fishery.
During Spring on the oceanic islands, albatrosses are being born! The same is happening with the Albatross Task Force! New members are joining in order to maintain the oceanic species diversity.
In December several candidates applied for two positions at ATF-Brazil. We had 75 applications and we did a pre-selection choosing 16 candidates and in the last selection we chose five candidates for these positions. Among the selection criteria, we looked for people that already had some experience at high seas.
We formed an examining board in order to interview the future Task Force members and for the five selected candidates we had an individual interview. The board was coordinated by Tatiana Neves (General Coordinator of Projeto Albatroz), Patrícia Mancini (Itajaí Coordinator), Fabiano Peppes (ATF-Brazil Coordinator) and our good international friend Meidad Goren from the ATF-South Africa. It was amazing having Meidad with us, helping us to select the new members for our incredible team!
Ricardo Hoinkis and Caio Azevedo Marques were chosen to work with the ATF-Brazil. Currently in Brazil we have three ATF members: Fabiano (Santos Harbour), Ricardo (Itajaí Harbour) and Caio (Itaipava Base). Together, we are covering the most important area for the albatrosses in southern Brazil. We are really a Task Force operating on the high seas! We are very proud of this!
We all are aware of the great challenge we have in hand, but we are not alone in this huge ocean, all the different ATF teams must unite our efforts to save the seabirds on their migratory routes.
After the Itajai selection, I returned to Santos. In December, during the Christmas and New Year holidays, it is a very important period for the ATF-Brazil because it is the only time of the year that we can find all the skippers from several longline vessels together.
It is much easier to talk with them and share experiences and histories about the year spent on the high seas. Indeed, it is very rewarding to listen to the fishermen talk about the torilines and blue dye baits. And the skippers that still don't have such technology are already listening on the radio at sea about these things, and they started to talk with other skippers that already are using them. Some of them are asking us about how to acquire such gear!
In this way, we were able to introduce in January a new pair of tori lines in another vessel called Quebra Mar I, skippered by Dinho. Now they will be able to fish without harming the seabirds. Dinho has been visiting our headquarters since August 2007, asking us to install a tori line in his vessel. He loves and understands the importance of the seabirds.
I've been pretty close to him all the time when his vessel arrives or departs for the sea. We established a good relationship and trust and we could deploy other mitigation measures, because he was already using the blue dye bait.
However, the shipping owner of Quebra Mar I was very reluctant for a while until he understood that the tori line is not only good for seabirds, but also it is good for the fishery itself, increasing the fishery production. Therefore, after several conversations, he allowed us to install the tori line in his vessel. There is no doubt this was a great victory for everyone, shipping company, skipper, ATF, and mainly for the albatrosses that can fly more safely on the ocean.
I feel much rewarded by the work I've been accomplishing and I do with all my heart. This feeling is the main tool that I have to show the fishermen about the value of the albatrosses and the marine life as a whole. It is a great privilege to have in our planet these wonderful birds flying at sea. And we are doing everything that we can to keep them flying in this way forever.