I returned from my first trip working with the Albatross Task Force aboard the
pelagic longline vessel “Maria Letícia”, from Torquato Pontes Fish Company.
This boat sailed under captain Celso, a very experienced captain who specializes
in catching tunas. Captain Celso has collaborated voluntarily with the Projeto
Albatroz and Albatross Task Force since activities began in Brazil, allowing
observers on board and using mitigation measures such as night setting and flying
a tori line.
the Rio Grande harbor, in southern Brazil, in the early afternoon with very
good weather (sunny and flat-calm sea conditions). We navigated to the fishing
area which is located over the continental slope. During the first week of the
trip the weather continued to be good. The nights were moonless and very dark, and
as such the stars were very conspicuous and bright. The bioluminescence of the Noctiluca algae was strong and clear,
creating a beautiful effect on the propeller turbulence. Sometimes I could also
observe bright traces at the water surface where fast swimming penguins, fur
seals or fishes passed.
the trip I recorded 15 species of seabirds. The most abundant species were the
Cape Petrel, Black-browed albatross, White-chinned petrel and Giant petrels,
both Northern and Southern. Almost every day one or two Royal albatrosses
(Northern and Southern) followed the vessel. I could see they were not always
the same individuals by the different plumage stage. It was a surprise for me since the Wandering albatrosses
are more common in the Brazilian sea than the Royals, but during this trip I
saw the opposite. We also recorded Magellanic penguins, Fur seals, Common dolphins
and Loggerhead turtles. One Loggerhead turtle was captured alive (caught by the
flipper), and we returned it to the sea after loosening the hook line.
the trip setting up the tori line support pole for this new vessel so it was
ready for use. In the total of seven
sets we had used 7,200 hooks, and the only bird caught during this trip was a
juvenile Black-browed albatross, caught alive as the fishing gear was hauled. The bird was
released from the hook and returned to the water. Besides a
superficial injury caused by the hook, the albatross flew away, apparently in a
I saw another three albatrosses entangled in the fishing lines during
the trip, although each was able to free itself from the line alone. Even so,
this situation can easily cause serious injuries, especially broken wings and
consequently prevent the animal from surviving at sea.
seventh day at sea the weather began to deteriorate, and after the weather
report announced strong winds (100 km/h) and big waves (6-7 meters) almost all
boats fishing in southern Brazil returned to the harbours. However, our vessel
and another two continued fishing. One of them was captained by Juninho, Celso’s
enough, the next day the waves crashed in over 7 meters high and the winds blew
stronger than 80 km/h. At about 3 pm, Juninho called Celso by radio and explained
that his hull was damaged, a lot of water was leaking in the boat, and the
engine room was already flooded. Moreover, the strong winds had broken the GPS
antennas. As a result Juninho didn’t know their position and had no way of navigating
back to port. Celso needed to rescue his son and their crew! He found the
position of the “Maria” by calling the Brazilian Program of Satellite Tracking for Fishing Boats (PREPS) from the Ministry of Fisheries. After some adjustments to
the bridge equipment, and more than five hours navigating in the storm, we
found the “Maria” and escorted them back to Rio Grande harbour.
end of the trip everything turned out ok, and fortunately everybody returned
safety to the port. I brought home a bit more experience from this trip and the
happiness for having the opportunity to appreciate the grace of the albatrosses
flying in perfect tune with the wild seas.
Hi everybody. I thought twice before writing this diary, because we usually try to provide more positive