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 have been up to some exciting adventures.
Let's start with my second sea trip out on a trawlers fishing for hake. This vessel was slightly smaller than the last one I went on, so the rocking motion from the swell was even more exaggerated!
Needless to say I was seasick on this trip! The first day, I could definitely tell it was winter time, as we got hit with winds of Beaufort scale 7, with some rather large swell and waves, and so due to this and my seasickness I spent the whole day in bed!
The rest of the trip went much better especially as the weather improved. I encountered no new bird species to my personal sightings list and fortunately there were no birds killed during this trip. Some of the more interesting aspects of this trip included a visit from the first mate (who I might add was 66 years old) onto the catwalk at the back of the boat. This was quite a surprise as you had to climb up a horizontal ladder in the rocking motion, then move along a narrow platform and finally climb over the spare trawl nets to reach my data collection point! It was great to have a visitor up there in the cold though!!
My room was situated right next to the winches, making sure I never missed a trawl both day and night, which obviously meant very little sleep! But strangely enough when I returned home, I battled to sleep in the silence! Steaming home we had a great view of Table Mountain, Lions Head and the Twelve Apostles - definitely one of the most magnificent views anyone could ever see, especially from out at sea!
Then back on land, it was time to download the data collected at sea, as well as give a workshop to seabird observers (they help collect data from out at sea).
I had the opportunity to tell them about the albatross and seabirds that are getting killed during fishing operations in the South African waters. I was able to tell them how they could take action to prevent killings. I told them about the current fishing permit conditions and mitigation measures in place to reduce seabird mortalities on our vessels and of course a section on seabird identification. This was the first time I had given one of these workshops on my own and I must say it was a huge amount of fun and the observers gained a lot of information and a better idea of what to expect out at sea.
I went back out to sea, this time on an I&J deep-sea hake trawler for 7 days. Fishing was fantastic with some of the best fishing I have ever seen. There were no seabirds caught on this trips. I was also very excited and lucky enough to see both the northern and southern giant petrels, with the southern petrel in its white plumage phase - quite a stunning bird. I saw hundreds of pintado petrels, with fewer albatrosses, probably due to the fact that the vessel was using a crusher, mincing the fish waste (eg. fish heads) into unrecognizably small discards, which tends to attract the smaller birds.
Once again I was totally spoilt on this vessel, with the first mate bringing me a cup of hot coffee onto the catwalk while I was collecting my data in the wind and slight drizzle of rain. This was very much welcomed! The skipper even came and joined me while collecting data at the back of the vessel - what a surprise! This skipper was great and did his absolute best to make me feel as welcome and comfortable as possible.
As usual, the food was great and the cook once again forgot that I am a woman and will not eat the same as the crew (who eat at least six slices of bread, soup, a whole plate of food and dessert). I must say this was the best trip I have had do far! So overall it's been a pretty busy and fun-filled last few weeks.