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.
the last eight months I’ve been working off Richard's Bay,
in the east coast of South
Africa, collecting more data for the Albatross Task Force (ATF) research project which is seeking to determine how adding weight to the fishing
line effects the catch rates of target fish species.
The data so far shows that there is no difference
between normal fishing lines and the modified lines we have added extra weight
to. This means that we can add weight to fishing lines to reduce seabird
mortality without effecting the efficiency of the fishing operation. While we
require more data before we make a decisive statement about our results, this
is already an important step toward improved line weighting in longline
Relocating to Richards Bay,
2,000 km from Cape
Town, wasn’t an easy task but thanks to all my new
friends there it has been a great experience which I will forever remember.
Most of the at-sea trips were onboard the Ryoei, skippered by Jacques de Kock,
a good friend who proved to have very sharp eyes as together we spotted two
special birds; a Masked
Booby and a Swinhoe’s
Storm Petrel. These two birds caused great excitement amongst the local
seabird community as they have never been recorded in South
African waters before. Jacques is also committed to
help continuing collecting data on his boat after my departure and assisting
Tshickana who is stepping into my shoes and taking my place on the South
African Task Force team. Thanks Jacques!!
Open sea to the dry desert
Five years ago I saw my first albatross during my first fishing trip. It was also on this fishing
trip that I brought back 15 dead albatrosses. Since then I have been lucky enough to stay involved in the work that is preventing this unnecessary seabird mortality from happening. I have been a
member of the ATF since its formation in 2006 and have put my heart and soul onto our work here in South
However, this is going to be my last diary entry as I’m
going back to my homeland, Israel.
It is very sad for me to leave. It has been a privilege to work with
exceptionally wonderful people, both colleagues and fishermen; most of them I
know will be life-long friends. All with whom I share my passion for the wonderful
marine environment and especially the seabirds.
I am leaving with great optimism for the future of the
albatrosses. I know there is a group of excellent people busy securing the
future of these birds. I am also leaving South
a great satisfaction knowing that in just 5 years of hard work we managed to
decrease the seabird deaths in the local Pelagic Longline fleet by 85%. The
South African government is extremely active and committed to the cause and I
hope that things continue to be like that.
My heart will always be with the ATF. Albatrosses will
always be my favourite creatures and the oceans my favourite of all the world's blue. I am going
to undertake a very exciting and challenging project in Israel which will see
me continuing to work for the conservation of birds, this time the desert
birds. Quite a change from the wet, cold, blue seas but come to think about it
the two are very similar in so many ways and both are close to my heart so very
much. I hope that I will be able to take everything I learned here and
implement it for the benefit of the desert birds that also need some care.
Thank you to all the fans of the albatross for all your continued support. Thank
you to all my colleagues and friends from South America and Africa for sharing
the task and especially thank you to Oli, Ben and Samantha
for mentoring and stimulating me, patiently listening and wisely
advising during all this time. For giving me this rare opportunity to be
involved in a beautiful project I will always be grateful. But mostly thanks
for being good friends. I will never forget that!
All the best,