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.
During the last few weeks, we have been working onshore on a variety of activities with individual fishermen, fishing companies and governmental representatives.
Following two trips on the Sirius III, a 60-metre 'fresh' trawler (which keeps the catch on ice), we have been arranging a trip on a 'freezer' trawler (which keeps the catch frozen) that will leave port sometime in the next couple of weeks. We will be able to compare the two fishery types and trial the use of different mitigation measures. The trip will take about 30-40 days on southern waters.
During our onshore time, we have discussed mitigation measures with Diego González-Zevallos form Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Diego won a 'Smart Gear' award for the using traffic cones as a way of reducing seabird deaths on warp cables. He has extensive experience in the use of the cones in provincial 'fresh' trawlers.
We have also been in touch with our Albatross Task Force colleague Barry Watkins in South Africa, because he has been experimenting with cones on the South African fleet. Barry has also designed a tori line for trawlers; we hope to trial this on the Argentinian trawler fleet to see if the set-up works here.
Meanwhile, we have received very good news about mitigation measures for the longline fleet. The Argentinian Federal Fisheries Council (CFP) has passed a resolution to adopt the use of mitigation measures that reduce seabird capture in all vessels operating longlines in Argentinian waters. The mandatory measures include: the addition of weight to the main line, night setting, use of bird-scaring lines (tori lines), and the release of any bird captured live during hauling. It is hoped that these measures will have a swift effect in reducing the levels of seabird mortality now - and in avoiding mortality when the fleet expands in the future.
We have been maintaining contact with the fishing companies in order to explain the objectives of the Albatross Task Force further. In particular, we are trying to to raise the awareness of the main companies in Mar del Plata harbor. It's important to get the buy-in of managers, in order to smooth the way for our work on board fishing vessels.