I was recently invited by the International School to give a talk to their students about my work - a brilliant opportunity as many of the kids have parents involved in the fishing industry.
In fact, my invitation came about because two of the senior students had done a project about a year ago on seabird bycatch, which won second prize in a national school science competition, and which had been the suggestion of the father of one student as he is a captain on a trawler.
For my talk, I bought along 'Abigail', my soft toy albatross, and 'dressed her up' with tags, which I then used to help talk to the kids about a long-term study conducted on Gough Island.
I told the students about 'Yellow A43', a male Tristan albatross (listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN) that hatched on Gough Island in 1999. He spent several years at-sea before returning to his nest site to start breeding with a life-long partner.
During routine survey work in February 2007, albatross Yellow A43 was seen on a nest incubating his own egg. By September 2007 his egg had developed into a young chick thanks to dedicated parental care.
However, in November 2007, Yellow A43 was killed by a longline vessel fishing 2,900 km north of his nest site where his young chick was preparing to fledge. Tristan albatross chicks fledge in December, so it is possible that Yellow A43's chick survived despite the untimely death of one of its parents, but we just don't know.
This story really illustrates the plight of the albatross, and why my job is so important - adults foraging for food for their hungry chick place themselves at extreme risk. In a population as small as the Tristan albatross (there are less than 2,000 pairs), a broken pair bond due to the death of one adult would result in the surviving adult not breeding for at least one or two seasons, or longer if it can't find a new mate.