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.
have been some remarkable highlights recently with the second Instructors
Workshop held in Piriapolis, Uruguay being one of them. That was an inspiring
week, but there were some tense moments beforehand as our visas were only
granted three days before we had to fly out of Walvis Bay. Cutting it a bit
fine! Thanks to the Uruguayan team for organising such a wonderful event. Check
out the pictures on the Albatross Task Force Facebook page.
recently Global Seabird Programme Coordinator, Ben Sullivan paid our project a visit
in June and we had some productive meetings at high level within the Ministry
of Fisheries. Once again the Ministry showed willingness to support our work.
after Ben's visit I facilitated a workshop with key fisheries scientists and
section heads to finalise a draft of the Namibian National Plan of Action –
Seabirds for presentation to the minister. Watch this space for updates! This
document is the roadmap for seabird bycatch mitigation in Namibia and will pave
the way for legislation to reduce incidental seabird bycatch.
work up to now has been on demersal (sea-floor) trawlers where we conducted
successful trials showing the Namibian fleet the effectiveness of tori lines at
preventing bird interactions with fishing gear. The results of this work are
being analysed and written up for publication and will hopefully form the basis
for developing best practice mitigation guidelines for the Namibian Hake trawl
of Fisheries have had a consultant draft a management plan for Hake, the
backbone of the local fishing industry, and we provided input on bycatch issues.
Through this consultation we were able to include bycatch as a concern in this
fishery and stipulate recommendations for relevant mitigation measures to
become mandatory aboard trawlers and longliners.
positive news is that after a successful time with the ATF, my colleague in
Namibia, Kaspar Shimooshili, has left the project to study for a master’s
degree. His departure is a blow to the project, but we all wish him well with
his studies and it was great working with him.
move to new studies has left a gap in the Namibian ATF and the research he was
working on. As this fishery potentially has the highest impact on seabirds it is
one of our priorities and as such I have continued with the longline work until
we can find a replacement for Kaspar – big boots to fill!
I have just returned from my first trip aboard a demersal longline vessel. It
was an amazing experience, completely different to working on the trawl vessels
I am used to. The tori line trials I conducted were successful with no birds
being caught while mitigation was deployed.
used Time Depth Recorders on hooks to obtain a sink profile of how the fishing
gear behaves during the setting operation. The preliminary results suggest that
line weighting needs to be improved to increase the sink rate. A slow sink rate
means baited hooks remain close to the surface and available to foraging birds
for longer, increasing the risk of bycatch.
line weighting is a recognised best practice mitigation measure in other
countries and will no doubt make a big difference here as well.
seven day trip started with calm seas and sunny weather. This changed to
overcast and colder conditions to choppy seas to a howling gale and five meter
swells for the last two days.
from lots of wonderful albatrosses and petrels foraging around the vessel I
also saw three pods of Long-finned Pilot whales, at least two Humpback whales
and a pod of what was possibly oceanic Bottle-nosed dolphins.
is just so much going on out at sea and working on the fishing vessels affords
us the privilege of glimpsing this world. The highlight of the trip was,
however, when I was packing up the tori line and the ship’s boson asked if they
could keep it. I asked if they would use it and his response was that he had
seen it worked well in keeping birds away and did not interfere with the lines.
He said he was keen to use it. Of course I gladly left the tori line with him.