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.
Here in Brazil we have an expression: 'When everything starts well, it will also finish well!'In our latest mission, the Projeto Albatroz staff and I embarked ATF Coordinator Oli Yates in a longline vessel to test and demonstrate two ‘tori line’ techniques to prevent albatrosses taking baited hooks. Here in Santos, we contacted the skipper of a boat called the Akira V – a boat big enough to take us both, and the crew.
The Skipper is a man called Celso. He was pleased to offer his vessel so we could work for the conservation of seabirds. But we hit a snag. The Akira V was at Rio Grande harbor, in southern Brazil, on the Uruguayan border, 1,500 km away! Oli had to travel from Chile to São Paulo, from Sao Paulo by plane to Porto Alegre, and by bus to Rio Grande city. This took four and a half hours. These are the logistics of such a big country as Brazil!Once here, Oli and I started to prepare to set sail from Rio Grande city. We evaluated everything we already have in our hands, because nothing could be wrong and should be perfect. We did some shopping to pick up some extra materials, each detail is important, because the lack of a single thing could compromise all the information collected for the trip. After a long day we received news that Akira V was already anchored. We went to see her and meet the crew. For me, it was a special moment and great joy as I could meet old friends as I already had the chance to sail with skipper Celso. For me, he is one of the skippers with greatest creativity and intelligence that I ever met in Brazil. He has a great perception of oceanography. We explained quickly how the tests should be accomplished and, the next day, we were ready to go. Finally, the Akira V left the Rio Grande harbour! Everybody was pretty happy, and each fisherman was proud to have a foreign guest – Oli - on the vessel. I was on hand all the time, because the Brazilian crew could not understand well what Oli was saying - and vice-versa! After 12 hours, they started the fishing activities, and we got down to work. We were testing two bird-scaring lines so always calculated the time of the sunset, so that we could see the seabirds and test the two tori line models during sets before dusk. During the first days, we had no problem at all, but the wind changed its direction and we caught our first cold front, with a turbulent sea. Even so, the skipper Celso did not stop fishing. He managed two fishing sets per day and the crew did not have time to rest. This meant of course that Oli and I kept working too, to test and demonstrate our bird-scaring techniques. Even with a turbulent sea, we were able to accomplish our tests and we collected a lot of useful information. During meal times, Celso stopped work so that everybody could eat. We had always a celebration as the cook wanted to be kind to Oli and he varied the menu, with rich Brazilian combinations -rice, beans, meat, salad and something to drink. Working with skipper Celso makes everything easy as he is a really experienced and calm captain who was supportive and interested throughout the trip. After the fishing activities, Celso made some suggestions about how we could improve our tori line designs. In our last days at sea, the ocean grew to Beaufort force 7-8. Even so, Celso decided to set the longline, very unusual for a small boat in these conditions! Being among these waves was like being in the Maracana Stadium in Rio! The crew asked us if we were ready to go home, for us, despite doing all the tests in extreme conditions and feeling the sea’s awesome strength, at the same time we felt very safe on the Akira V. On September 7 - Brazilian Independence Day - we arrived back at Rio Grande harbour, with a lot of stories to tell. Aand very satisfied because we accomplished a great trip and everything went really well with our latest efforts to save albatrosses from long line hooks!Best wishes to all albatross supporters!